Comment: Deadline nears to enroll in new dairy program

Issue Date: November 26, 2014
By Val Dolcini
Dairy farmers have until Dec. 5 to enroll in a new federal Margin Protection Program, and until Dec. 15 to file comments on how best to implement the program.
Dairy farmers have until Dec. 5 to enroll in a new federal Margin Protection Program, and until Dec. 15 to file comments on how best to implement the program.
Val Dolcini

In modern agriculture, there is much we can control, but two dynamics remain beyond our reach: weather and markets. The unpredictability of both, and sudden changes in either, can disrupt any family farming operation.

California dairy producers know these dynamics firsthand. The 2014 Farm Bill provides a safety net, in the form of the new Margin Protection Program for dairy, so that when unforeseen swings in markets occur, dairy producers are better protected and family businesses remain strong.

The Margin Protection Program for dairy, which replaces the Milk Income Loss Contract program, was created in the farm bill to shield against when the margin—the difference between the price of milk and feed costs—falls below the levels of coverage selected by participating dairy producers.

However, this safety net is not automatic. Dairy farmers must visit a Farm Service Agency office to enroll before Dec. 5 to lock in these protections through 2018. For just $100, a farmer can cover 90 percent of production at $4 margin swings and, with affordable incremental premiums, dairy farmers can cover $8 margin swings. In fact, if farmers enroll this year, they will even receive a slight increase in production protection that won't be available in the future. It's a small step to take to ensure your business is covered.

If you're not sure how the Margin Protection Program works or what it will mean for your operation, an online resource from the U.S. Department of Agriculture can help. Go to, type in your specific operation data, and explore price projections and market scenarios to determine what level of coverage is best for you. You can also compare the data to see how the program would have helped in previous years, such as 2008, when margins dropped from $8 to $3 in just three months. The online resource is on a secure website that can be accessed from your computer, mobile phone or tablet, 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

Farmers also have a chance to share comments and help shape the Margin Protection Program for the future.

According to statistics, more than 90 percent of dairy farms are family-owned and operated, often by multiple generations. USDA is committed to supporting family farmers and creating strong opportunities for the next generation of dairy farmers. But we need to hear from you about how best to make the Margin Protection Program work for farming families.

Submit your comments to us via the website at or send them by mail to: Danielle Cooke, Special Programs Manager, Price Support Division, FSA, USDA, STOP 0512, 1400 Independence Ave. SW, Washington, D.C., 20250-0512. Although enrollment in the Margin Protection Program ends Dec. 5, comments will still be accepted until Dec. 15.

To learn more about the Margin Protection Program for dairy, contact your local USDA Farm Service Agency county office at or visit us on the Web at

Don't wait to enroll—act today. Today's market conditions are strong but, as previous years have shown, markets can turn on a dime, costing you so much more if you don't have a safety net to protect you.

(Val Dolcini is administrator of the USDA Farm Service Agency in Washington, D.C.)

Permission for use is granted, however, credit must be made to the California Farm Bureau Federation when reprinting this item.