Food Industry Rallies Behind Dairy Freedom Act

Retailer groups, food manufacturers and restaurants have voiced their support for the Dairy Freedom Act in a letter to the bill’s authors, Representatives Bob Goodlatte (R-VA) and David Scott (D-GA).

The bill would offer the safety net of margin insurance for dairy farmers without forcing them to participate in a supply management program, a provision included in the dairy section of last year’s Senate and House Agriculture Committee Farm Bills.

“We strongly support your bill that will establish support for dairy farmers without mandating that they participate in a new government dairy ‘supply management’ program,” wrote more than three dozen signatories in the letter. “Your compromise, bipartisan proposal will help dairy farmers through tough economic times, but removes an unnecessary regulatory burden on dairy businesses and provides opportunity for market expansion, new jobs and economic growth.”

The list of groups includes national organizations such as the Grocery Manufacturers Association (GMA), the Food Marketing Institute (FMI), the National Grocers Association (NGA), the National Restaurant Association and the National Council of Chain Restaurants, as well as local groups like the Wisconsin Cheese Makers Association, the Alabama Grocers Association, South Dakota Retailers Association and the Texas Retailers Association.

The Dairy Freedom Act, introduced last week by Representatives Goodlatte and Scott, provides a safety net for dairy farmers by establishing a new revenue insurance program for times of low milk prices and high feed costs. Unlike the Dairy Security Act, which was proposed last year but didn’t gather sufficient support, the Dairy Freedom Act’s insurance program is not tied to a controversial supply management program.

Opponents of supply management believe it would increase domestic prices on dairy products above international prices, make the American dairy industry less competitive and bring more government regulation and intervention into milk markets.

“We have learned from past experience that government management of commodity supply and demand does not work,” the letter continued. “Restricting milk supplies will increase dairy product costs for consumers and will hurt dairy industry growth, leading to negative long-term consequences for dairy farms, processors, retailers, restaurants, consumers and taxpayers.”

“Supporters of the Dairy Security Act want people to believe that this is simply a fight between dairy producers and dairy processors, yet the policy impacts the entire food industry,” said Jerry Slominski, SVP of legislative and economic affairs for the International Dairy Foods Association, one of the signers and proponents of the Goodlatte-Scott bill. “That’s why food manufacturers, grocery stores and restaurants, particularly chain and pizza restaurants, have joined IDFA to oppose government policies that artificially raise prices for the products they sell.”

The letter, as well as a full list of signatories as of April 30, is available online.

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