When Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced his rural economic stimulus funding Monday, he was joined by two dairy producers and an Iowa hog farmer, so naturally I assumed there would be something in the package for livestock producers who are suffering financially, especially the dairy industry.
However, from what I can tell, there is nothing specific in the package that would directly aid the livestock industry. Most of the funding will go for direct loans to about 2,000 beginning or socially disadvantaged farmers and water and waste grants and loans.
When asked about assistance to dairy farmers, Vilsack said making a decision on the best way to provide help has been complicated by large-scale production in Australia and New Zealand, along with the European Union’s decision to use dairy export subsidies for its products. Because of that, Vilsack says the USTR and the State Department are interested in any dairy aid package USDA may develop. That would likely involve increased use of the Dairy Export Incentive Program (DEIP).
The Farm Service Agency will reportedly be making Milk Income Loss Contract payments to producers due to low milk prices. However, due to a change in the 2008 Farm Bill, it may be April 1 before those payments get to producers. In addition to some other MILC changes, the farm bill includes the addition of a dairy feed ration cost adjustment. The payments are expected to be in the range of 1.35 to 1.60 a hundredweight, which is less than the cost of production, but could provide much needed assistance until the industry begins to recover.