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In the News: Staff Columns

Milk market loss: Priorities are members' needs now, long-term fixes to trade

Monday, April 17, 2017   (0 Comments)
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Hello everyone,

We want to bring you up to speed on our work regarding the Canadian milk market issue and the effect on dairy farmers.

Several of our members are among those losing a market for their milk on May 1. DBA has been aggressively working on ways to find a home for those farmers' milk and to push solutions with Wisconsin's agriculture department and congressional delegation.

Our sister organization, the Dairy Business Milk Marketing Cooperative, which had 23 member farmers directly affected by this situation, is keenly focused on the federal trade policy aspects.

The following is a message that DBMMC's president, John Pagel, shared today with members of the cooperative. We share it as a full update for all of our members.

From John Pagel

First, I want to say that we deeply empathize with the farmers who have been living in limbo because of the situation. As we work one-on-one with our members who have been directly affected, we are hearing firsthand of their worries and struggles. The stakes are high. This is about livelihoods for these families.

I want to assure those farmers, and the rest of our membership, that your cooperative is working tirelessly to address the immediate need - finding a home for the milk - and to help shape long-term solutions to what at the core is a trade issue.

Here are specific actions we are taking:

SHORT TERM

As always, our members' immediate needs are our top priority. We have been working tirelessly to try to match the farmers with processors. This has involved frequent one-on-one discussions with our affected members to understand their individual situations and discuss potential options.

We also continue to talk with processors and the Wisconsin Cheesemakers Association, and have been in discussions with the Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection.

On the policy front, our staff and our new federal lobbyist in Washington have contacted members of the congressional delegations in Wisconsin and Minnesota - where our affected members are located - as well as others in Congress and the Trump administration about the urgent need for action to resolve this problem. While USDA, the U.S. trade representative and the White House have been made aware of the issue, specific next steps are unclear.

It is important to note that any potential World Trade Organization challenge and/or retaliation would take time, potentially years, which unfortunately does not help the farmers who need their market issues resolved now. However, at this point, the negotiation process between the U.S. and Canada is fluid. We will keep you updated as we continue to advocate for a solution.

LONG TERM

Looking further ahead, the Trump administration has indicated it intends to renegotiate the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), perhaps as soon as this summer.

With our reinforced lobbying presence in Washington, DBMMC will work with a broader agriculture trade coalition during that process with the goal of reaching a resolution to nontariff Canadian policies that negatively impact dairy trade; and gaining significantly greater market access for U.S. dairy products.

Here are actions you can take:

  • If you have lost your milk market, it is critical that you contact the Wisconsin Farm Center at 1-800-942-2474. The state is closely tracking the farmers who are affected in the efforts to find solutions. The state needs accurate information to be most effective. So, if you have yet to contact the center - or if you called earlier and your status has since changed - please call. (Click here for more about the center.) 
  • Contact your processor to ensure you understand your relationship.
  • Contact your lender to discuss what you might do if this situation occurred for you.
  • Continue to contact your federal representatives and use social media to ensure this issue keeps a high profile and that Congress is informed. Click here for an easy way to do so.

We want you to know that DBMMC is working with the broader dairy community to support the farmers who are affected. When one suffers, we all suffer.

I can assure you that we will exhaust all options to find a home for every last drop of this milk.

Do not hesitate to reach out to us for help or if you feel that you can be of assistance to others. We will keep you updated as things progress.

Thank you

Dairy Business Association


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