Why is Congress trying to raise the price of milk?

The Dairy Security Act, a package of dairy policy reforms in the Farm Bill, includes a program specifically designed to raise milk prices. This Dairy Market Stabilization Program would ultimately increase the prices that consumers pay for milk and dairy products. It works by periodically imposing limits on the amount of milk dairy farmers can sell and penalizing them if they produce more milk than allowed.

Programs like this significantly increase milk prices. Although they would affect us all, the higher prices would hit lower income consumers the most as they spend a higher proportion of their incomes on food than do other consumers.

Leading consumer watchdog organizations, including Consumer Action, the Consumer Federation of America and the National Consumers League, have urged Congress in a letter to reject the provision in the Farm Bill. Price increases caused by the Dairy Market Stabilization Program would negatively impact federal nutrition assistance programs, on which millions of low-income families depend, either by increasing program costs for taxpayers and reducing the purchasing power of families in need.

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At a time when so many Americans are having difficulty making ends meet, the last thing the country needs is increases in the price of staple food products.

We all want to help the farmers who work hard to raise and provide the food we eat.   But, we can help dairy farmers without hurting consumers.  In the House of Representatives, Reps. Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.) and David Scott (D-Ga.) have an alternative proposal during debate on the Farm Bill.  Their proposal, the Dairy Freedom Act, will offer an effective and expanded safety net for dairy farmers without forcing consumers to pay higher prices for milk, cheese, yogurt, ice cream and other dairy products they buy each week. 

That is why more than 100 groups from across the spectrum of issues and political perspectives – consumer groups, anti-tax groups, food and restaurant groups, many dairy producer groups and dairy foods manufacturers —oppose the Dairy Market Stabilization Program but support the bipartisan compromise offered by the Dairy Freedom Act.  We can give dairy farmers the insurance safety net they want, without artificially raising the price of milk.

Tipton is the president and CEO of the International Dairy Foods Association, a Washington, D.C.-based organization representing the nation's dairy manufacturing and marketing industries and their suppliers, with a membership of 550 companies within a $125-billion a year industry.