I know what you’re probably thinking: it’s a bit unusual to receive a Dear Colleague like this from me. But after serving on the House Agriculture Committee for 16 years, and representing a number of farmers and ranchers in Ohio, I can tell you: our Soviet-style dairy programs are in dire need of reform.
That’s why I hope you’ll support the Goodlatte/D. Scott/Et al. amendment #194 to the Federal Agriculture Reform and Risk Management (FARRM) Act of 2013. By bringing some free market reforms to our dairy programs, this amendment will help our economy grow, protect farmers and families, and save taxpayers an additional $15 million over the changes in the underlying bill.
Today, the government runs a complex and costly maze of dairy programs designed to keep prices high. Minimum prices for milk are set by Washington, not the market, and in many districts are still based on how far one is from Eau Claire, Wisconsin – an absurd holdover from the Great Depression.
None of this bureaucracy comes cheap. Taxpayers have shelled out $5.44 billion for dairy programs since the 2002 Farm Bill (which I voted against). And staples like milk, butter, yogurt, and cheese all cost families and small businesses more than they should.
The Members of the Agriculture Committee deserve credit for recognizing the need for reform and proposing that we eliminate several current dairy programs. But we have to go further.
The underlying bill would still allow the federal government to cap and control how much milk is produced in the United States, and keep prices artificially high, through a so-called “supply management” program. It even forces producers to obey these “supply management” restrictions and regulations if they want to participate in the margin protection program.
By supporting the Goodlatte/D. Scott/Et al. amendment to the Farm Bill, you’ll be:
- Helping our economy grow: This amendment builds on the reforms in the underlying bill and scraps the proposed “supply management” program. Doing so will allow farmers and dairy producers to expand and meet the growing global demand for American dairy products.
- Protecting families and farmers: Families are already having trouble making ends meet in this economy. This amendment will help bring prices down for our constituents while providing more opportunity and fairness to dairy producers across the country.
- Saving taxpayer dollars: This amendment saves taxpayers another $15 million on top of the $40 billion saved in the Farm Bill. Every penny counts.
The bottom line is this: the federal government doesn’t control the supply or price of bread, clothes, or cell phones – it shouldn’t be doing so for milk.
The text of the Goodlatte/D. Scott/Et al. amendment is available here and the text of the Farm Bill is available here. I hope you’ll join me in supporting this common-sense amendment and a more free market agriculture policy that is better for American farmers, families, and taxpayers alike.
John A. Boehner