Pennsylvania senators introduce new dairy bill

Warren Howeler

U.S. Sens. Bob Casey Jr., D-Pa., and Arlen Specter, R-Pa., on Thursday introduced a new dairy bill that was originally written by Arden Tewksbury, manager of the Progressive Agriculture Organization, and Gerald Carlin, a dairy farmer from Meshoppen.

The dairy bill, which is identified as the Federal Milk Marketing Improvement Act of 2007, was developed by Pro Ag in conjunction with the National Family Farm Coalition in Washington, D.C. Pro Ag is a member of the coalition.

The bill would price all milk in the United States based on the national average cost of producing milk. In addition, the proposed legislation calls for the U.S. Secretary of Agriculture to adjust milk prices four times a year based on the dairy farmers' cost of production.

“This formula would take the rollercoaster ride out of milk prices,” Tewksbury said. “The ups and downs in milk prices have been extremely painful to dairy farmers and very confusing to consumers.”

The proposed bill also contains a supply management program that would not allow unnecessary buildup of milk supplies, Tewksbury said.

Tewksbury noted that Casey and Specter have been strong proponents of having the dairy farmers' cost of production brought into the formula that prices milk to dairy farmers.

“There are several other dairy proposals being introduced, the Specter-Casey Dairy Bill is the only bill that allows the dairy farmers' cost to be brought directly into the pricing formula, and the Specter-Casey Bill is the only proposed dairy bill that eliminates any necessary payments of any kind to dairy farmers,” Tewksbury said.

Specter and Casey noted that the bill will be completely funded by dairy farmers and there will be no direct cost to United States taxpayers.

“Rapidly increasing energy costs and feed costs are driving dairy farmers to the brink,” Casey said. “They are struggling to make ends meet, and their livelihoods are in jeopardy. These bills will help make sure that these dairy farmers don't lose money and are able to keep their farms. I look forward to continuing to work with Sen. Specter on this important issue.”

Specter said, “I am pleased to work with Sen. Casey to establish a more stable and fair dairy pricing system for the farmers of Pennsylvania. These two bills will address the increasing costs of milk production and help to protect our dairy producers' crucial industry.”

Tewksbury thanked Carlin for helping to write the dairy proposal and the National Family Farm Coalition's dairy subcommittee, which was helpful in reviewing the provisions of the proposed legislation.

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