WASHINGTON--Congress should adopt a national solution to federal dairy policy to benefit producers in all regions, rather than pit them against each other, the National Farmers Union (NFU) told the Senate Agriculture Committee Feb. 9.

Wisconsin Farmers Union President Bill Brey, testifying at a hearing on behalf of NFU, urged lawmakers to make several improvements to dairy policy at the federal level to improve farm income and stabilize prices.

Both producers and consumers will benefit from a national approach to dairy policy that aims to stabilize markets and boost farm income, said Brey. National dairy policy has become very contentious with one region pitted against another.

However, when you talk to real producers, we all agree that there must be a national solution to the challenges we have in common. Dairy producers are facing the lowest prices in recent memory and Congress must respond.

NFU recommended the following changes to federal dairy policy:

--Increasing the dairy support price from the current $9.90 to $12.50 per hundredweight to help stabilize prices. The support price triggers government purchases of product to help reduce supplies.

--Short-term assistance, such as direct payments, to offset projected declines in farm income this year due to low prices.

--A reduction in the processors' manufacturing allowance, which reduces prices to farmers.

--Trade policy that preserves a government's right to maintain domestic support for dairy producers.

--Maintaining current standards for natural cheese under the Food and Drug Administration.

At his organization's recent annual convention, Brey hosted a panel of dairy producers, representing several regions and sizes of dairy farms, who agreed on a set of principles for federal dairy policy. Panelists supported continuation of a federal dairy program, a higher support price, inventory management, and continuation of compacts if coupled with a higher support price.

Brey milks 95 cows and raises 600 acres of alfalfa, corn, barley, canning peas and soybeans in Sturgeon Bay, WI.

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