By Christina Calloway
CMI staff writer
The executive director for Dairy Producers of New Mexico feels there’s no need to get up in arms about $8 a gallon milk because she said it’s not likely to happen.
Despite the threat of a looming dairy cliff, DPNM’s Beverly Idsinga said the real concern for milk producer of an expiring farm bill is not being covered under the Dairy Security Act, an insurance program for producers.
With eastern New Mexico being a leader in the dairy industry, Idsinga said the DSA is necessary because the program maintains a guaranteed producer price for milk.
“We’re all hanging on by a thread,” said Idsinga, whose family dairy is in Roosevelt County. “The security act takes the volatility out of the market.”
Idsinga said U.S. Department of Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack has been pushing Congress to reach an agreement on the farm bill so that these protections will be instated and a dairy cliff is averted.
Idsinga said he has assured the agricultural community that he won’t hastily implement an old subsidy formula from the 1940s if the current farm bill lapses.
As if calculating the cost of milk isn’t complicated enough, Idsinga said the USDA does not want the responsibility of regulating milk prices and distribution.
“No one wants this to happen,” said Idsinga, “(Vilsack) been pushing (congressional) conference for a while.”
She said there are efforts on all ends to make sure a farm bill will be created by the end of this month to prevent the cost of milk from doubling.
“Nobody can afford that; milk is a staple,” Idsinga said.
Idsinga said the farm bill holdup is largely due to the disagreement between the House and the Senate on their separate bills.
The point of contention are the proposed cuts to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP, which is encompassed by the farm bill.
Idsinga said the Senate passed its version of the bill in June and then the House passed its piecemeal version.
“They will try to come to a consensus between the two chambers since there was so much of difference due to SNAP,” Idsinga said.
U.S. Sen. Tom Udall, D-N.M., is hopeful that when the Senate and House return on Monday, they will continue to make progress and reach final legislation for the farm bill soon, according to Jennifer Talhelm with Udall’s press office.
“One of the biggest issues holding negotiators was SNAP,” Talhelm said. “They’re working on coming up with a final piece of legislation that will set the amount of SNAP benefits. Sen. Udall has been working very hard to encourage negotiators to not cut SNAP.”
Although the dairy cliff threat has been sensationalized because it affects consumers directly, according to Roosevelt County Extension Agent Patrick Kircher, the entire ag community will be affected by a new farm bill.
“One of the big things, there’s so many government programs that are dependent on the legislation,” Kircher said. “The potential for high dollar milk, it’s catching a lot of sensationalism right now.”
Kircher said many USDA programs will suffer without a bill to determine how funding will happen for those programs.