WASHINGTON — Following the US House Agriculture Committee’s approval of its version of the 2024 Farm Bill, the International Dairy Foods Association (IDFA) voiced its regard for certain aspects of the draft. But the organization also called upon Congress for some changes as the draft continues to develop.

IDFA president and chief executive officer Michael Dykes said the trade association was pleased to see the chamber’s version of the Farm Bill expand the SNAP Healthy Fluid Milk Incentive (HFMI) to include the full suite of nutritious milk options, noting the HFMI pilot program was established in the 2018 Farm Bill to test effective ways of incentivizing the purchase of healthy fluid milk.

Dykes shared that HFMI pilots, known as the Add Milk! program, have since reached hundreds of retailers in the US, including rural locations.

“The program has been very effective in doubling the purchasing power of SNAP participants through the use of electronic incentives,” Dykes said. “The House Agriculture Committee’s 2024 Farm Bill recognizes this success by expanding the program to incentivize nutritious milk options like 2% and whole milk, and by providing more certain funding to ensure increased access and continued success of the program.”

Still, Dykes said IDFA wants to see the program expanded to incentivize dairy products such as cheese and yogurt. He said the organization will keep working with committee members and the dairy industry to expand HFMI and bring a broader dairy incentive program to SNAP participants. Dykes said IDFA urges Congress to include those products in the final version of the Farm Bill.

The IDFA’s leader also made note of other aspects of the House’s draft relevant to dairy:

• It would make the Dairy Forward Pricing Program permanent, eliminating the gap in forward pricing programs for proprietary plants and their producers that occurs if farm bills are delayed

• It would allow schools to serve whole milk and reduced fat (2%) milk to students.

• It would mandate biennial cost surveys to ensure make allowances accurately reflect the cost of manufacturing dairy products — which Dykes pointed out is “a consensus priority across the U.S. dairy industry.”

A provision within the draft dealing with Federal Milk Marketing Orders (FMMOs), however, wasn’t considered favorable by IDFA. Dykes said it circumvents the US Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) mandate to complete the ongoing FMMO hearing process by restoring the “higher of” formula for calculating the price of Class I fluid milk.

“The USDA process to make changes to the FMMO system through a federal order hearing has been under way for well over one year, and USDA will soon announce its proposal for the updated FMMO,” Dykes said. “IDFA believes Congress should not intervene on one select issue, especially one that is included in the current USDA FMMO hearing process and one that has significant impacts across all policies in the FMMO, and, like many of the hearing proposals, affects many parts of the dairy supply chain. IDFA urges Congress to remove this provision as it develops the 2024 Farm Bill and let USDA complete its work on the many equally important updates needed in FMMO price regulations.”


WCMA weighs in

The House committee’s version of the Farm Bill also drew reaction from the Wisconsin Cheese Makers Association (WCMA), which noted the draft maintained current funding authorization for the Dairy Business Innovation Initiatives (DBII) program.

Earlier this month, WCMA and Organic Valley penned a letter to Congress asking for DBII to be fully funded in the next Farm Bill. The letter was backed by more than 200 dairy industry leaders.

WCMA shared that Rep. Derrick Van Orden (R-Wis.) entered the letter into the official record as he introduced an amendment to provide $36 million in annual authorization for DBII. House Committee on Agriculture Chairman Glenn Thompson (R-Pa.) committed to support DBII as the Farm Bill progresses, and the amendment was withdrawn.

“While WCMA and many dairy business leaders seek the express inclusion of boosted funding in the House bill, we appreciate Congressman Van Orden’s championship of DBII and trust that Chairman Thompson will work to secure the $36 million in annual support necessary to a maintenance of program impact,” said Rebekah Sweeney, WCMA’s senior director of programs and policy. “Inflation and the addition of a fourth innovation center on the West Coast require an increase in Dairy Business Innovation Initiative support moving forward to ensure farmers and processors can continue to expand their production and business development, providing greater stability in our food supply chain.”

Like IDFA, WCMA said it will advocate for an amendment to address HFMI projects to include cheese and yogurt.

The association also is calling for a mandated biennial cost survey to ensure accurate make allowances, a continuation of the Dairy Forward Pricing Program, the protection of common food names for cheeses in trade agreements, and the CURD Act to define natural cheese.