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  September 16, 2010

Partial victory seen in passage of Mandatory Price Reporting; DPAC continues quest for 'daily'

By Sherry Bunting, Farmshine, Sept. 17, 2010

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- The Mandatory Price Reporting Act of 2010 (H.R. 5852) passed the House on voice vote under suspended rules Wednesday morning, Sept. 15 one day after Congress returned for its brief September session before they again recess to campaign before the November elections.

The Dairy Policy Action Coalition (DPAC) spent the day before the bill’s passage in Washington D.C., meeting with Congressional ag staffers and looking for last minute options to amend the language to "daily" instead of weekly reporting for dairy product prices and sales volumes.

But to no avail. The table had been set by the House Ag Committee and the Senate’s companion bill (S. 3656) had already been passed in similar "suspended rules" fashion last month.Under "suspended rules," a bill passes without opportunity for amendment, and individual votes are not recorded. This process is reserved for non-controversial bills that have bipartisan support.

Truly, this bill was non-controversial in the House and Senate from the standpoint that it reauthorizes mandatory daily reporting for the beef, pork and livestock. It is also non-controversial from the standpoint that it directs USDA to establish a mandatory electronic reporting system for dairy.

But dairy producers were expecting to see their product reporting to also be daily, mainly because the 2008 Farm Bill includes a section (1510), which authorizes the establishment of electronic reporting and "more frequent" reporting, along with quarterly auditing of the processor price and volume reports.

The industry already has a weekly report in the NASS Survey, so the logical meaning of "more frequent," is viewed by dairy producers and industry observers to mean "daily."

Congress, however, added the mandatory reporting language for dairy products to the bill passed Wednesday, but kept the frequency requirement as "weekly" instead of "daily."

According to the bill language, the new electronic dairy report will be released every Wednesday for the previous week’s sales. The net gain in timeliness is two days, as the current NASS Survey process for dairy product price reporting is already done on a weekly basis, but is issued Friday of each week for the previous week’s sales.

The Mandatory Reporting Act moved to the fast track in the voting process for a few reasons. First, the authority for the existing beef and pork reporting was due to expire September 30, 2010. Staff for various members of the House and Senate Ag Committees DPAC spoke with Tuesday explained there was a desire to keep the bill non-controversial to avoid delays, which would have left the beef and pork industries without their mandatory reporting requirement.

The weekly (versus daily) reporting requirement for dairy was deemed necessary to avoid controversy from the dairy processing side, which could have delayed the bill from passage by Sept. 30.

For DPAC, the action is viewed as a partial victory. But as producer members told Congressional ag staffers Tuesday: "It really feels like a loss because the effort to gain ‘daily’ reporting was viewed as a key to diluting the influence of the CME on producer milk pricesand a way to ensure greater marketplace transparency for dairy producers."

One thing was clear from the visits, there is no question that DPAC’s attention to this part of the 2008 Farm Bill is what pushed the Mandatory Reporting at least this far.  Producers need to continue to build unity and action because getting done what’s already in the previous Farm Bill has proven, itself, to be a battle.

DPAC will continue to work on the issue with members of Congress on the Ag Appropriations side, where their focus began back in January of 2010.

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