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Farm Aid Awards Grant to FOOD Farmers

Added February 6, 2011. In December 2010, the Federation Of Organic Dairy Farmers (FOOD
Farmers) was awarded a grant of $8,000 by Farm Aid to support the work of its supply management committee. FOOD Farmers is a national umbrella group representing the Northeast Organic Dairy Producers Alliance (NODPA), Midwestern Organic Dairy Producers
Alliance (MODPA) and the Western Organic Dairy Producers Alliance (WODPA). Formed in February 2007, the informal group communicates by conference calls, shared publications, producer meetings and the internet. NODPA is responsible for administration and there are four priority areas for the organization: Policy; Supply and Demand; Legal and Contractual; Animal Welfare. The Federation was able to act as a united voice for farmers during the development of the Access to Pasture Rule, providing a single position on new regulation and successfully lead a coalition of many groups to have an effective and practical rule. The organic milk market is now commodity based, with two national brands and a diminishing number of smaller cooperatives/businesses to whom farmers can sell their milk. FOOD Farmers has responded to the need for a more formal national entity to initially present opinions on milk supply management, pay-price and contractual restrictions (for example the sale of raw milk).

In early May 2010, FOOD Farmers had one successful meeting to discuss supply management and will use the grant funds to provide financial support for farmers to travel to future committee meetings and to have regional farmer meetings to develop an organic dairy farmer position on supply management. The purpose of the FOOD Farmers supply management committee is to define the problem on the supply side, understand the issues, and begin the process of developing a system to manage the organic milk supply in a way that will benefit the entire industry: farmers, processors, retailers and consumers. While there are regional differences in milk supply and utilization, and differences in how the various handlers and processors have managed their oversupply, it is clear that producers have suffered economically during organic milk oversupply. FOOD Farmers has decided to lead the effort to create a better system that can be applied nationally to protect collective interests of organic
dairy farmers. Producers need to be at the table, driving the process, or they will continue to be price takers without due recourse.

To be effective, any supply management plan must first allow for natural, long-term production growth, in line with the underlying growth in domestic and world demand. A plan must provide for the natural exit of existing producers and enable new producers to enter the industry. Both are needed for the U.S. to maintain a viable organic dairy industry. A growth management plan will need to develop a system that sends a clear signal to organic milk producers when there is too much organic milk and must be mandatory across the country. Automatic trigger levels for under utilization will be pre-determined through a process that includes processors and producers.

Trigger levels could be different for different times of the year. When a program is "triggered", all producers will be encouraged to reduce production from recent levels. If the program meets these criteria, it would reduce price volatility without artificially raising the cost of milk. Through this inherent stability, there would be more long-term transactions between dairy producers and manufacturers.