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Dairymen credit Speaker Boehner; making donations
‘He used his political clout on behalf of dairy farmers, which shows what kind of man he is.’

By SHERRY BUNTING
Special for Farmshine

LANCASTER, Pa. -- The heavy lifting may be over now that the Farm Bill is passed, but dairy policy will continue in the nation’s capital even before the work begins on the next 5-year Farm Bill.

Area dairy farmers are gathering donations for the “Boehner for Speaker” fund to present Speaker of the House John Boehner with an envelope full of personal checks when he visits Lancaster County, Pennsylvania on June 13.

George Mueller of Willow Bend Farm, Clifton Springs, New York, is happy to help. “I’m glad to contribute $1.00 per cow in thanks for the Speaker’s stand on dairy policy,” he declared in an email this week.

“We dairy farmers are blessed by (his) strong stand against letting the concept of controlling supply… take hold,” he wrote in a letter accompanying his Boehner for Speaker contribution.

“Just imagine the whole government bureaucracy that would be necessary to administer milk quotas on dairy farmers,” said Mueller. “We are so blessed that Speaker Boehner took the time to read the bill and sound the alarm to the dangers of ‘supply management.’”

Mueller and others who have been part of the dairy policy discussion during the 2014 Farm Bill debate are also thankful the industry will no longer balance the world milk supply by selling bulk products to the government. That outdated program kept U.S. prices below world prices far longer than was the case in countries like New Zealand in 2009-10.

“We are in a world market for dairy products,” Mueller wrote. “The U.S.A. is in a better position than most nations to serve this market and serve it well.”

This point became clear during the four years of dairy policy debate that led to greater awareness of global dairy marketing opportunities. Those opportunities have turned the current dairy market -- and farm-level milk prices -- around to a positive direction.

If the industry had not debated the “supply management” question and seen the effect such a program could have in keeping the U.S. dairy farmers in the position of “balancing” world market supplies, the current level of marketing opportunities, worldwide, may not have been fully realized as they are today.

Speaker Boehner had a big hand in the final outcome of this debate because he stood firm to force the Senate to acknowledge the overwhelming House vote that favored “margin protection” without “supply control.”

Boehner saw the dairy grassroots did not support the nationalization of the market through a quasi-voluntary supply-control program, a stand that was evidenced by the House vote last summer. And he saw that such a supply management program would prove to be mandatory for any farmer than signed up for the margin protection, especially young farmers and small dairies.

Speaker Boehner stood firmly on the side of free enterprise. And dairy farmers have a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity between now and June 10 to thank him for it.

Not only is this an opportunity to thank the Speaker by supporting the “Boehner for Speaker” fund, says retired agribusiness man and founder of the grassroots Dairy Policy Action Coalition (DPAC)… “Sending personal checks by June 10, will allow us to present the Speaker with a show of support to give dairy farmers a cohesive presence when he visits Lancaster County, Pa. on June 13.”

Morrissey is asking every dairy farmer, and every agribusiness serving dairy farmers, to be part of this effort with a one-time contribution -- by personal check -- of $1.00 per milk cow (or other amounts for agribusinesses) and to consider attending the June 13 event.

“This is a call to action,” said Morrissey. “We want to personally thank the Speaker for his efforts on behalf of dairy farmers.”

For dairy producers Alan and Sharon Kozak of Clover Patch Dairy, Millersburg, Ohio, showing thanks to the Speaker with a contribution is a no-brainer.

“John Boehner did not cave in to the special interests,” the Kozaks explain. “He could have done nothing. He could have stood to the side and blamed the outcome on someone else, and no one would have found fault with that. But instead, Speaker Boehner took a risk. He used his political clout on behalf of dairy farmers, which shows what kind of man he is.”

For the Kozaks, contributing comes down to this: “Thanking the Speaker with a contribution to this fund is like saying: ‘We like the way you think. We like how you took action when maybe you didn’t have to. And we would like to do our part to help keep a man like you in leadership.”

“The dairy farmer’s livelihood -- and his dignity and way of life -- depend on the financial health of the dairy farm being at a satisfactory level, where the youth can continue in dairy,” Morrissey observes. “Boehner understands that dairy farms are the salvation of local economies. The past four years have been a battle for what is right.”

Dairy policy battles are ongoing. Right now the House is considering not only immigration reform and trade agreement terms that directly affect the U.S. dairy industry and family farms of all sizes, future House leadership will also be setting the foundation and groundwork for farm policy going forward to the next Farm Bill.

The best way to predict the future is to look at the most recent past. That means recognizing the instrumental role Speaker Boehner played in the final outcome of dairy policy in the Farm Bill.

The outcome could have been for a future scripted by thousands of pages of new regulations governing milk production limits in exchange for “insurance” against low margins. Instead, the future is free of such regulations and full of opportunity to innovate and market dairy products worldwide while defending the home turf by being market-savvy instead of recoiling with production controls to serve as the world’s “supply balancer.”

When the new 5-year Farm Bill finally passed both houses and was signed into law in February 2014, the Dairy Title was a tiny portion, but it encompassed four years of intense national debate about the future of the dairy industry. At stake was the future market opportunities for future generations on family farms of all sizes.

“As dairy farmers, we are thankful that Speaker Boehner saw the Dairy Security Act for what it was. It was refreshing to see a political leader do the right thing for the right reasons. He saw that the proposed supply management program was something the dairy grassroots didn’t want, and that it would not have been good for the dairy industry,” said Alan and Sharon Kozak.

When Speaker Boehner comes to Lancaster on June 13, Nelson Troutman of Oakenbound Holsteins in Lebanon County looks forward to shaking his hand. “He stood up to a lot of pressure on behalf of the American dairy farmer,” said Troutman. “There is a more market-oriented future, and more optimism today because of Speaker Boehner’s stand.”

Morrissey notes that having a House Speaker who understands dairy is a plus for the future, compared with starting all over trying to educate new leadership and a new majority about the dairy farmers’ business and what is on their minds and hearts for the next generation to take hold, transition the farms, and continue their passion for dairy farming.

“I am challenging every dairy farmer to give a minimum of $1.00 per milk cow as a one-time donation, and for every agribusiness to donate $1000,” said Morrissey. Those personal checks will be collected and then presented to Speaker Boehner on June 13. “This is our chance to thank the Speaker and to solidify our relationship at the grassroots level.”

He said personal checks should be made payable to “Boehner for Speaker” and mailed to the Friends of Joe Pitts, P.O. Box 775, Unionville, PA 19375. For questions about contributing and to attend the June 13 event in Lancaster, Pa., contact Bernie Morrissey at 717-951-1774.