Half of U.S. dairymen enroll in new margin protection program

Jersey dairy cattle

WASHINGTON — More than 23,000 of the nation’s dairy operations — over half of all U.S. dairy farms — have enrolled in the new safety net program created by the 2014 farm bill, known as the Margin Protection Program.

The voluntary program provides financial assistance to participating farmers when the margin — the difference between the price of milk and feed costs — falls below the coverage level selected by the farmer.

“Enrollment far exceeded our expectations in the first year,” said U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack.

Learning curve

During the three months of the enrollment period, USDA conducted an education and outreach effort through the Farm Service Agency and Cooperative Extension Service.

The department held over 500 public meetings, sent out nearly 60,000 direct mailings, and conducted more than 400 demonstrations of the Web-based tool designed to help applicants to calculate their specific coverage needs.

“When you compare the initial enrollment rate for the Margin Protection Program to the longstanding federal crop insurance program, where participation ranges from 30 percent to 80 percent depending on the crop, it’s clear that these outreach efforts made a difference,” Vilsack said.


Unlike earlier dairy programs, the Margin Protection Program offers dairy producers a range of choices of protection that are best suited for their operation.

Starting with basic coverage for an administrative fee of $100, producers can select higher levels of coverage at affordable incremental premiums. More than half of applicants selected higher coverage beyond the basic level.

Dairy producers interested in enrolling in the Margin Protection Program for calendar year 2016 can register between July 1, 2015 and Sept. 30, 2015.


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