Dairy coalition group making positive strides for farmers

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A list of some of DPAC’s main goals can be found here.

MOUNT HOPE, Ohio — A little more than a year after its inception, one Pennsylvania-Ohio dairy policy organization is still alive and well, and is spreading its way across New York, Tennessee, Indiana, Wisconsin and elsewhere.

Dairy Policy Action Coalition — a nonprofit organization based out of Ephrata, Pa., is made up of a 20-member board of active dairy producers. In fact, being a dairy producer is part of board members’ requirements.

The organization collectively represents the dairy interests of several thousand dairy farmers who are committed to a set of principals they feel will strengthen the dairy market for the nation.

On March 24, the organization gave an update at Mrs. Yoder’s Kitchen in Mount Hope.

Sherry Bunting, DPAC correspondence secretary, said the group took its interests to the House Agriculture Committee in January, where they talked about the ways their program differs from another popular plan: the National Milk Producers Federation’s Foundation for the Future.

Comparing plans

Some parts of DPAC’s plan are in agreement with National Milk’s plan, but there are key differences — namely what to do about supply management of milk.

DPAC leaders fear giving more power to the government to manage supply, without addressing the root problems of low prices — would only worsen the situation.

“Shouldn’t we give more attention to the broken system than giving more (power) to a system that’s already not functioning properly?” Bunting said.

Bunting and DPAC Director Alan Kozak commented on the size of NMPF, which is said to represent the vast majority of dairy producers in the nation. One key area of agreement is repealing the dairy price support program.

But the differences are enough to keep the plans separate, and on some issues, at odds.

Multiple interests

Kozak said NMPF has the challenge of representing dairy farmer interests, along with the interest of milk processors.

“How can they represent processors and manufacturers and producers, too?” he asked.

The DPAC board in February approved a resolution stating it could not presently endorse the NMPF plan, and it further sent a message to Congress asking “Senators and Congressmen to represent the interests of dairy farmers and the many businesses in the rural communities who depend on them. …”

Kozak said DPAC is not against National Milk, or the other national dairy plans that are being developed. But DPAC felt the differences warranted their own effort.

“We’re not fighting National Milk, we just want to put out another plan,” he said. “Let them do theirs and we’ll do ours.”

World demand

Considerable discussion was given to world markets, which DPAC members said “is for real, it’s not a myth.”

World demand was one of the key reasons behind the record profits of 2007-2008, and demand continues to be strong, if U.S. dairies can afford to supply it.

Bunting estimated exports have increased 19 percent over the past 7 years, with new demands by China for whole milk powder.

But U.S. participation has been limited because trade agreements have fell short, and in the case of U.S. milk powder, government quality specifications are not as high as the rest of the world.

Bunting and Kozak said food ingredient demands have changed, as well, with some demanding different types of milk products.

The dairy industry “needs to start making products that the world wants, and the people here at home want,” they said.

Part of their proposed fix includes reducing the four-class milk grading system, to two classes. This, they said, would force more market competition among milk products and more of it would go to its “highest value use.”

Moving ahead

DPAC continues to work with its hired lobbyist, former Pa. Secretary of Agriculture Dennis Wolff. More about DPAC and its progress can be found at www.dpac.net.

Its overall focus is simplifying the way milk is marketed, and applying some commonsense to the process. Historically, the milk pricing system has baffled farmers, congressional leaders and even dairy experts.

“You should not need to be a rocket scientist to figure out how you’re getting paid,” Bunting said. “And I don’t even think a rocket scientist could figure this thing out.”

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