Milk support prices, annual loan rates unchanged for now

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WASHINGTON – The USDA is leaving the milk support prices untouched for now, but plans to reconsider the support level soon. Likewise, the ag department announced last week it won’t determine annual loan rates for the 2002 crops until Congress finishes the farm bill.

Last fall’s ag appropriations act extends the Milk Price Support Program through May 31, 2002, at the 2001 milk support price of $9.90 per hundredweight (3.67 percent milkfat).

The purchase prices for these manufactured dairy products remain as follows: butter, 85.48 cents per pound; block cheddar cheese, $1.1314 per pound; barrel cheese, $1.1014 per pound; and nonfat dry milk, 90 cents per pound.

Loan rate. Last Friday, the USDA announced it will wait for final Congressional action on the farm bill before determining annual loan rates.

“We feel it is prudent to wait to announce loan rates until the intent of the Congress becomes more clear through the farm bill process in order to avoid confusion for farmers,” said Agriculture Secretary Ann M. Veneman. “If it appears the Congress will not complete a farm bill in time for this year’s crops, we then will make the determinations and announcement.”

The House of Representatives has passed HR 2646, which is applicable to the 2002 crops. The Senate is expected to resume consideration of a farm bill upon its return later this month.

Timely completion of a Senate bill and a subsequent conference committee are likely to produce new authorities applicable to the spring planted crops. That legislation would specify loan rates for the 2002 crops.

There is no statutory deadline for loan rate determination. Announcements in previous years have varied from as early as Dec. 18 to as late as April 23.

Loan rates for wheat, corn, soybeans, minor oilseeds, and ELS cotton are based on an Olympic average formula (85 percent of the average farm price during the last five years, excluding the highest and lowest years), constrained by maximum (grains, cotton and oilseeds) and minimum (upland cotton and oilseeds) levels.

The 1996 Act provides the secretary some discretion in setting loan rates for these commodities.

Current rates. Loan rates for the 2001 crops are as follows:

Wheat, $2.58 per bushel; rice, $6.50 per hundredweight (fixed rate); corn, $1.89 per bushel; sorghum, $1.71 per bushel; barley, $1.65 per bushel; oats, $1.21 per bushel; soybeans, $5.26 per bushel; minor oilseeds, $9.30 per hundredweight.

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