New dairy margin protection programs in the 2014 farm bill

Farm Forum

BROOKINGS — Among changes found within the new farm bill, the Agricultural Act of 2014 includes Margin Protection Program for Dairy Producers (MPP), an important new safety net program for dairy producers.

“The MPP is a voluntary safety net program that provides producers with indemnity payments when a national benchmark for dairy income minus feed costs (i.e. a margin), falls below coverage levels producers select on an annual basis,” explained Kim Dillivan, SDSU Extension Crops Business Management Field Specialist.

The MPP contains four main components:

1. Actual Dairy Production Margin (ADPM);

2. Actual Dairy Production History (ADPH);

3. Coverage Percentage; and

4. Coverage Level

Dillivan explained that ADPM is defined as the difference between the national average price per hundredweight of milk, and the cost of the three primary feed ingredients – corn, soybean meal, and alfalfa hay – which comprise the majority of rations fed on dairies.

This feed cost is determined by the national average price for corn and alfalfa, based on the monthly Agricultural Prices Report by USDA National Agricultural Statistics Service, and the central Illinois price for soybean meal, reported by USDA Agricultural Marketing Service.

“These feed ingredient prices are weighted so that this summed value represents the composition and cost of a typical dairy ration that produces 100 pounds of milk,” Dillivan said. “It is a herd-level feed cost of producing 100 pounds of milk and, as such, includes the amount of feed fed to dry cows, replacements, and calves.”

National average feed cost and milk price are calculated monthly, but the Actual Dairy Production Margin (ADPM) which will be calculated for each consecutive two-month period, using milk price and feed cost averages for those two months. Specifically, the calendar year is divided into six periods consisting of consecutive pairs of months (e.g. Jan/Feb, Mar/Apr, May/Jun, etc.).

“So, six times annually, USDA will calculate a margin to determine whether indemnities are paid,” he said.

Participating dairies will be assigned an Actual Dairy Production History (ADPH) based upon their highest annual production in 2011, 2012, or 2013 calendar years. In future years, ADPH will likely be adjusted by the Secretary of Agriculture to reflect changes in US milk production. New dairies that have been operating less than a year will estimate annual production by either extrapolating monthly amounts to an annual estimate or by using their actual herd size and national yield amounts.

Dillivan explained that participating producers will elect what percent of their milk production to be covered (i.e. “Coverage Percentage”) and the level of margin coverage (i.e. “Coverage Level”). These annual elections will determine their total annual premium and their potential indemnity payments. Producers may elect a Coverage Percentage between 25 percent and 90 percent of their ADPH, in intervals of 5 percent. Producers also elect their Coverage Level from $4 per hundredweight up to $8 per hundredweight in intervals of $0.50 per hundredweight.

He added that if the ADPM for any two-month period falls below a producer’s elected margin Coverage Level, this difference will be paid on the Coverage Percentage of their ADPH divided by six.

“Annual premiums are based on production history and level of coverage. For dairies with 4 million pounds of milk or less in their production history, the premium per hundredweight for each level of coverage is shown in the second column of Table 1. Premiums increase as margin coverage increases. Premiums are also higher for larger production levels,” he said.

Dillivan added that for participating dairies that exceed 4 million pounds of milk production, the rate from the second column of Table 1 will be charged on the first 4 million pounds, and the rate from the third column of Table 1 will be charged on production greater than 4 million pounds. To encourage participation in the program, particularly for smaller scale producers, premiums association with milk production of 4 million pounds or less (second column) will be reduced by 25 percent each calendar year for producers participating in 2014 and 2015.

“As with most new USDA programs, specific details of the MPP will be determined as the rules and regulations are written to administer the program,” Dillivan said. “According to the farm bill, the MPP is to be established by September 1, 2014; however, it remains unclear whether participation can commence before September 1 if rules have been established by then.”

Each dairy operation that participates in the MPP will be required to pay an annual administrative fee of $100. A dairy operation is generally defined as one or more dairy producers that produce and market milk as one operation. Other ownership structures will be defined by the Secretary of Agriculture if necessary.

USDA Farm Service Agency has been tasked with writing specific rules for the MPP, including the timing of indemnity and premium payments, as well as how and when producers enroll in the program. Dairy producers should be alert for news concerning the release of relevant announcements.

Dairy Product Donation Program

Also newly introduced with the new farm bill, the Dairy Product Donation Program (DPDP) requires the Secretary of Agriculture to implement a dairy donation program whenever the ADPM is below $4 per hundredweight in each of two consecutive months.

“Should this program commence, the USDA would purchase various dairy products at market prices for distribution to food banks and other donation programs. USDA is prohibited from storing these products and the organizations receiving dairy donations cannot sell the items into commercial markets,” Dillivan said.

He explained that as one of the main features of new dairy policy in the 2014 Farm Bill, MPP is a safety net program that provides participating producers with indemnity payments when actual dairy margins fall below levels of coverage that producers select on an annual basis.

“These dairy margins are calculated by national milk prices minus feed costs. Producers pay premiums that are based on the level of coverage selected and individual dairy milk production level,” he said.

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