Press Release

For Immediate ReleaseContact: Jim Campi or Aaron Taylor
June 29, 1999(202) 467-5300

(Washington, D.C.) – Following are remarks by Thomas Schatz, President of the Council for Citizens Against Government Waste (CCAGW).  Schatz spoke at a Capitol Hill press conference in support of an amendment to H.R. 1402.  The amendment would repeal milk marketing orders:

This week, the House Agriculture Committee will mark up H.R. 1402, a bill that will reverse the modest reforms in dairy policy recently made by the Department of Agriculture.  The Council for Citizens Against Government Waste strongly supports an amendment being offered by Congressman John Boehner to H.R. 1402 that would repeal milk marketing orders and allow dairy farmers the freedom to make economic decisions without government interference.

Last week, Minnesota Governor Jesse Ventura testified before the House Agriculture Committee about the negative impact the dairy program had on farmers in his state and fully supported market-oriented dairy reforms.  He said, “If market forces are good enough for corn and wheat, why not cows?  I truly believe that the people of this country are waiting for common sense to take hold out there.  Washington needs to stop using the farmer as a political pawn.”

Unfortunately, the committee did not heed his concerns.  H.R. 1402 only adds to the current command-and-control structure in the dairy industry, with decisions on how much milk should be produced and how it can be used in the hands of the Department of Agriculture.

In its decision to follow the mandate of the 1996 Farm Bill to reduce the number of milk marketing orders and change milk pricing to better reflect current market conditions, the Department of Agriculture took some small steps toward reform.  After considering more than 4,000 comments, and extensive analysis by economists, producers and processors, USDA reduced the number of milk marketing orders and decreased the price differentials that are now charged based on how far the milk is produced from Eau Claire, Wisconsin.  But some members of Congress are refusing to accept even these minor changes in dairy policy.

Congressman Boehner’s amendment would go the opposite way of H.R. 1402 by repealing milk marketing orders entirely.  While CCAGW strongly endorses his amendment, we urge the committee to at least allow implementation of the milk marketing order reforms as proposed by USDA and reject H.R. 1402.  We also have concerns that attempts may be made during the mark up to extend the Northeast Dairy Compact beyond its scheduled expiration date as well as create new compacts, and to extend the dairy price support program beyond its current expiration date of December 31, 1999.

The 1996 Farm Bill incorporated freedom to farm for most commodities, but did not free the dairy program from excessive federal control.  As Congressman Boehner has said, it’s time for freedom to milk, and time to end the antiquated milk marketing order system that may have made sense 65 years ago, but which no longer serves the interests of the American people.


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