NMPF President’s Update

New Round of USDA CFAP Payments in the Works, But No Announcement Yet – We had hoped that by today USDA would release details of the next round of assistance under the Coronavirus Food Assistance Program. However, as of mid-afternoon today USDA has not given an indication on how they will disburse the aid. Detailed information on the additional assistance has been a close hold in the department.

Today is the deadline for farmers to enroll in the first payment round initiated this spring. To date, the program has paid out $9.7 billion, with dairy farmers receiving over $1.7 billion of that sum. As I reported last week, we have emphasized to USDA that a new round of payments necessitates a new production base, not the first quarter 2020 milk production used initially for the dairy formula. We also expect USDA to make some adjustments in its strict interpretation of CFAP limits on farm business structures that disadvantages farms held in family trusts, which we expect to be applied retroactively. We have raised this issue repeatedly with USDA, and Secretary Perdue told me they are making some changes, but we have not yet seen the details.

We have also repeatedly urged USDA to remove payment limits from the disaster assistance because the current approach does not treat all producers equitably. In discussions with Secretary Perdue he indicated they plan to maintain the current overall limits that were announced as part of the initial program. As a result, we are continuing to work with Capitol Hill to address this issue.

We are also strongly urging USDA to focus its assistance efforts on dairy product purchases for distribution to those in need, as these purchases help increase all farm milk prices throughout the country. My letter last week to Secretary Perdue requested increased purchases of butter because that would help boost Class IV milk prices that are lagging behind Class III. Earlier, we also urged the department to buy nonfat dry milk for international humanitarian aid efforts; to date USDA has not taken steps in this area. We are renewing our request for action in this area and reaching out to additional stakeholders for support and engagement.

Capitol Hill

Senate Fails to Pass Coronavirus Aid Bill –The window of opportunity to accomplish much more on Capitol Hill in 2020 continues to shrink, as the Senate yesterday failed to pass a stripped-down coronavirus relief bill.

The bill did not receive support from Democrats, as the measure was much more limited in its overall resource allocation than what House Democrats put in their HEROES Act passed this spring. As a result, the $500 billion Senate package failed to advance Thursday, throwing cold water on any momentum in the Senate to adopt additional pandemic relief prior to the November election. The bill included $20 billion in additional aid for agriculture, along with jobless aid, liability protections for businesses and school funding, but did not contain an increase in state and local aid, as well as nutrition assistance, key priorities of both House and Senate Democrats.

Right now, given the chasm in expectations between what each party wants out of a relief bill, along with the looming presidential election, it doesn’t appear there is a clear path forward for a compromise stimulus package in the short term.

With the end of the current fiscal year looming at the end of this month, Congress also must pass a separate funding resolution to keep the government from shutting down. While no clear agreement has yet been reached, the expectation is Congressional leaders and the White House will work out a short-term agreement that will fund the government until sometime after the November elections. Whether negotiations on that continuing resolution also create an opportunity to discuss a deal on coronavirus aid remains to be seen.

Other Noteworthy News

Latest NMPF COVID Toolbox Released – Even though it’s been more than six months since COVID-19 has upended supply chains and strained markets, we continue to update our website and share materials designed to help farmers and the dairy supply chain confront the pandemic. This week, we released the ninth in our series of coronavirus resource newsletters, filled with information about sanitation, worker safety and animal care, as we work to prevent and manage the impacts of the virus on our industry. You can also visit www.nmpf.org/coronavirus for additional resources and the latest updates.

Our latest Dairy Defined column, released on Labor Day this week, also highlights the extraordinary efforts that dairy farmers and their employees have devoted to keeping the food supply moving from farm to fork. Just as coronavirus has made people think more about who’s working to provide their food, the importance of those workers is as clear as ever.

NMPF Fall Meeting Schedule Dates – Finally, the pandemic has disrupted many events this year, and our annual meeting and related governance meetings are no exception. We will be providing more formal notifications of the sequence of meetings in the next two months, but for now, here are some key dates to save:

NMPF Executive Committee: Friday, Sept. 25
NMPF Board of Directors: Monday, Oct. 19 (tentative, exact date TBD)
NMPF Delegates: Monday, Oct. 26
NMPF/NDB/UDIA Annual Meeting General Sessions: Tues. Oct. 27 & Wed., Oct. 28
NMPF 2021 Board of Directors meeting: Week of Nov. 9

Needless to say, these are all virtual meetings and will require participants to use Zoom. We will soon be providing links to each. The meeting formats will be tighter and more focused, and their length shorter, but will still offer our members the opportunity to share information, get answers to their questions, and conduct the business of this organization.

Thanks for reading and enjoy your weekend!