If you don’t vote, then you have no right to complain. Dairy farmers, take note.
Dairy farmers, let your voice be heard
VOTE ON DAIRY: USDA has issued its recommendations for sweeping changes to the Federal Milk Marketing Order system, the first big changes since 2007. Eligible producers will have the chance to vote on the proposed changes via a vote that will be administered and overseen by USDA. BOONSTUDIO/GETTY IMAGES

My Take: The recent ruling on changes to the Federal Milk Marketing Order system requires you to take part.

If you don’t vote, then you have no right to complain. Dairy farmers, take note.

The USDA has issued its recommendations for sweeping changes to the Federal Milk Marketing Order system, the first big changes since 2007.

Here’s a breakdown of the USDA’s recommendations:

Changes to milk composition factors. Updates the factors to 3.3% true protein, 6.0% percent other solids and 9.3% nonfat solids.

Changes with cheddar prices. Removes the 500-pound barrel cheddar cheese prices from the Dairy Product Mandatory Reporting Program survey and relies solely on the 40-pound block cheddar cheese price to determine the monthly average cheese price used in the formulas.

Update make allowances. The update is as follows: cheese, $0.2504; butter, $0.2257; NFDM, $0.2268; and dry whey, $0.2653. The recommended decision also proposes updating the butterfat recovery factor to 91%.

Return to higher-of Class I. The decision would revert the base Class I skim milk price to the higher-of advanced Class III or Class IV skim milk prices for the month. In addition, there would also be a rolling monthly Class I extended shelf life (ESL) adjustment, which USDA states would provide for better price equity for ESL products whose marketing characteristics are distinct from other Class I products.

Update Class I differentials. This will update the increased cost of servicing the Class I market. County-specific Class I differentials are specified in the decision.

What’s next?

The USDA expects to publish its decision in the Federal Register sometime this month. Once published, there will be a 60-day comment period. Comments may be submitted at the Federal eRulemaking portal at regulations.gov.

Comments may also be filed with the Hearing Clerk, U.S. Department of Agriculture, Room 1031-S, Washington, DC 20250-9200, or by fax at 202-720-9976.

All comments should reference the docket number, and the date and page number of this issue of the Federal Register. 

After the 60-day comment period, USDA will have 60 days to issue a final decision addressing public comments.

Eligible producers will have the chance to vote on the proposed changes via a vote that will be administered and overseen by USDA. Only producers pooled in an order during a specified representative month will be given the chance to vote. A producer’s eligibility to vote will be determined by FMMO market administrators. More information on the voting process will be provided with the final decision.

This last point is important: If at least two-thirds of the producers voting or two-thirds of the milk volume represented in the vote approve of FMMOs as proposed to be amended, then AMS would issue a final rule implementing the changes. Each FMMO will be voted on individually. If the approval threshold is not met, then USDA would proceed to terminate the respective FMMO.

So, now it’s up to you. There’s no room for complaining. The entire dairy industry wanted USDA to take action and make changes to the current milk marketing system for years. And after a lengthy hearing — which took place from Aug. 23, 2003, to January 30 of this year — change is on the horizon.

Do your part and have your voice heard.

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