Politics
This Sept. 21, 2011 photo shows three Holsteins cows at Larson Acres Inc. in the Town of Magnolia, Wis. (AP Photo/Dinesh Ramde) This Sept. 21, 2011 photo shows three Holsteins cows at Larson Acres Inc. in the Town of Magnolia, Wis. (AP Photo/Dinesh Ramde)  

Dairy processors fight milk price controls with anti-government campaign

A trade group representing milk processors debuted an ad campaign Tuesday to eliminate New Deal-era federal price controls on unprocessed milk. The International Dairy Foods Association (IDFA) complains that the current price support system for dairy farmers dates back to 1937. Its ads call for “Big Government to get out of your milk.”

“The minimum pricing system was developed to address the problems of the past and is now an unnecessary regulatory burden on the dairy industry that limits industry growth,” said association president Connie Tipton. ”It causes consumers, mostly families with children, to pay more for milk and, not surprisingly, consumption of milk has been declining for many years.”

The campaign launched Tuesday with ads in Capitol Hill newspapers, a 30-second television spot in Washington, D.C., and a web video.

Under current law, milk processors must pay a federally mandated minimum price for unprocessed milk. The price is set by a U.S. Department of Agriculture formula and varies according to where the milk is processed and what kind of end-product it will eventually become. Processors pay different prices for raw milk depending on whether it becomes fluid milk; ice creams and yogurts; cheeses; and butter and powdered milk.

Minnesota Democratic Rep. Collin Peterson introduced legislation in September with the support of the National Milk Producers Federation (NMPF), a group representing large dairy farming cooperatives. Peterson’s bill would change how the USDA sets the price of milk used in cheese production, and how farmers’ margin insurance is calculated. But it would maintain the government subsidy program that the IDFA wants dismantled.

The NMPF’s statement Tuesday advocated for “ending an ineffective program, and replacing it with something much better.”

The IDFA calls this “a ‘heads, consumers lose, or tails, consumers lose’ process” and contends that “[milk] processors would not be given any vote or say in the adoption of regulations that directly impact their businesses.” Its members produce fluid milk, cheese, and ice cream.

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This story was edited after publication to correct a minor error in Ms. Tipton’s comments to TheDC.