Louisiana Continues to Lose Dairy Farms; Better Safety Net Needed

By Don Molino, Voice of Louisiana Agriculture Radio Network

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During his report on the Voice of Louisiana Agriculture Radio Network, Louisiana Commissioner of Agriculture and Forestry Dr. Mike Strain reported the National Milk Producers Federation is recommending a series of changes to the Margin Protection Program to ensure dairy producers have a better shot at getting payments under the plan.

The Margin Protection Program allows dairy farmers to buy insurance if the price they receive for milk is lower than a certain number.  Stain says one thing that has to be considered is how the cost of feed is calculated.

“There is a tremendous fluctuation in the price farmers receive for their milk on a month-to-month basis,” says Strain. “Producers say the current formula underestimates feed costs due to a 10% cut congress made before the 2014 farm bill was enacted.”

“We need an insurance program similar to the crop insurance program,” said Strain.

Louisiana is considered a “small dairy state,” according to the commissioner. “If you look at the last 2-3 years alone, Louisiana has gone from 120 dairy operations to only 80.  We went from roughly 12,000 cows now to under 10,000 cows.  And we’re very concerned we may soon have only about 8,000 in the entire state.”

The reason?  Strain says it’s because most of the time, generally speaking, farmers receive less for their product than it costs to produce it. “And once most are out of the dairy business they rarely go back into it."

And Strain pointed out Louisiana currently imports roughly 70% of the milk consumed in the state.