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Last batter up: Communicate with Congress
Dairy ‘world series’ goes extra innings as Farm Bill heads to conference


By SHERRY BUNTING
Special for Farmshine

EPHRATA, Pa. -- While most media reports have focused on the nutrition title and crop programs during the three-year process of writing a five-year Farm Bill, the dairy ‘world series’ has now come down to the final innings as the ag package moves toward conference committee.

The House passed by an overwhelming majority in June the bipartisan Goodlatte-Scott amendment (written by Reps. Bob Goodlatte of Virginia and David Scott of Georgia and also known as the Dairy Freedom Act). This was later included in the portion of the Farm Bill that passed the House without the nutrition title in July. The Senate, on the other hand, had previously passed the Dairy Security Act (as written by Rep. Collin Peterson and National Milk Producers Federation) with its passage of a whole Farm Bill last spring.

Now that House Majority Leader Eric Cantor has indicated the nutrition title is on the September agenda for a potential House vote, this would pave the way for the Farm Bill to be conferenced for a final vote yet this month.

Retired agribusinessman Bernie Morrissey -- who in November 2009 founded the Dairy Policy Action Coalition (DPAC) and served as its treasurer until the summer of 2012 -- still follows the Farm Bill process, sitting at the table with House leadership and their colleagues. He recently met Speaker of the House John Boehner and took the opportunity to thank him for his tireless support of the Goodlatte-Scott amendment.

As his wife will attest, dairy farmers reach out to Morrissey often with their concerns, thoughts and ideas, and he passes that information on whenever he has the chance. “I was fortunate to meet Speaker Boehner and Rep. Scott Perry of York County at an event recently. They understand how important dairy farms are to our local, state and national economies,” said Morrissey during a Farmshine interview near his Ephrata, Pa. home this week.

“I thanked the Speaker, and his colleagues, for their continuing support of the Goodlatte-Scott amendment (Dairy Freedom Act), and the Speaker made it clear it has been a top priority,” Morrissey added.

Speaker Boehner, who previously served on the House Ag Committee, represents a rural district in western Ohio and has -- from the beginning -- voiced his support for a non-supply-management option or alternative to the Senate-passed Dairy Security Act.

“The Speaker has stayed the course with his convictions. He is extremely impressive. He’s a man who says what he means and means what he says,” Morrissey observed. “The dairy farmers of the U.S. have much to be proud of with him representing their interests.

“Now that the Farm Bill is moving toward conference, he is sure not to take lightly the overwhelming vote for the Goodlatte-Scott amendment (Dairy Freedom) by the House members in June,” Morrissey added.“It’s my observation that dairy farmers can count on Speaker Boehner to see that the voice of the people carries from the floor of the House to the halls of the Senate when it comes to conferencing this Farm Bill.”

Morrissey noted that dairy farmers “have waged an outstanding effort to this point from across the country.” He said he thanks them for standing up for themselves “to work toward accomplishing something that could go down in history, to make it possible to control their own destiny.”

While it is true that the Senate version of the dairy title contains the Dairy Security Act, it is also true that the Dairy Security Act was rejected by the House in a landslide 291 to 135 vote in favor of the Dairy Freedom Act (Goodlatte-Scott amendment), which provides a margin protection safety net option, but without the supply management penalties attached to it that are found in the Senate version.

As Morrissey takes a broad perspective on all that has occurred since 2009, and the wheels set in motion even before that, he sees how “a positive outcome for dairy farmers in the Farm Bill, along with the outcomes of lawsuits in the Northeast and Southeast, can shape the future for dairy farmers in the U.S., allowing them to take steps to control their own destiny.

“As the ‘world series’ of dairy is being finalized in the House-Senate conference committee, we are now in the extra innings and the last batter is up. It’s time for dairy farmers to communicate, once again, with their Representative in Congress and their U.S. Senators,” Morrissey advised. “Call them, email them, fax them… definitely communicate with them as soon as possible. They need to hear from you, again, to support the Goodlatte-Scott amendment.”

Producers can find contact information for members of Congress by zipcode at www.contactingthecongress.org.