August 17, 2016

Kelly Fortier attends Cooperative Network's 2016 Federal Dairy Issues Forum

Michael Best attorney Kelly M. Fortier was featured in Agri-View's article "Trade deals addressed at forum" after attending the Cooperative Network's 2016 Federal Dairy Issues Forum.

International trade, immigration reform, the Margin Protection Program for Dairy Producers and California’s proposed federal milk marketing order were addressed at the Cooperative Network’s Federal Dairy Issues Forum, held Aug. 4 in Onalaska, Wisconsin.

Jaime Castaneda, National Milk Producers Federation senior vice-president of strategic initiatives and trade policy, discussed the importance of the United States moving forward with the Trans-Pacific Partnership for dairy farmers to get fair access to markets. Castaneda also outlined the pending Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership between the United States and the European Union, which would provide Americans increased access to European markets.

But the European Union’s addition of geographic indicators into the trade agreement is a concern, he said. The move would require products marketed under a particular name, such as Parmesan or Swiss, to be made only in specific European regions and would be more restrictive for U.S. processors to enter the market.

State-based visa program addressed

Kelly Fortier, a partner in Michael Best & Friedrich LLP, and Alex Nowrasteh, immigration policy analyst at Cato Institute’s Center for Global Liberty and Prosperity, discussed recent federal actions and the current presidential candidates’ positions on immigration reform. There have been a record number of deportations under the president Barack Obama and George W. Bush administrations; employer fines for violating immigration rules now range up to more than $21,000, Fortier said.

Hillary Clinton supports comprehensive reform and the establishment of an Office of Immigration Affairs, while Donald Trump has proposed more restrictive immigration measures that would ultimately hurt the dairy industry, Fortier said.

Nowrasteh has been working on legislation that would allow for a state-based visa program. Under this type of program, the federal government would allow states to create their own selection criteria, including the types of migrant workers whose visas they would authorize and their lengths of stay.

Improvements to margin protection proposed

The Margin Protection Program for Dairy Producers has been criticized for not doing enough to help producers in the depressed dairy economy. Robert Cropp, University of Wisconsin–Madison professor emeritus, compared the number of producers who would have received payments under the original feed-cost formula to the number of those receiving payments now through the Margin Protection Program. During March and April this year, he said 55 Minnesota producers and 85 Wisconsin producers received margin protection payments. Using the original feed-cost formula, 634 and 771 producers, respectively, would have received payments.

David Ward, director of government relations for Cooperative Network, presented possible modifications that could improve the Margin Protection Program, including changing the feed-cost formula, adjusting premiums to encourage producers to purchase additional margin protection, and extending the sign-up period to give producers more time and information on prices and feed costs. Ward also discussed issuing monthly instead of every-other-month payments to send money to producers more quickly.

2018 farm bill, California federal milk marketing order discussed

A panel discussion featured expectations for the 2018 Farm Bill. The panel included Dave Ladd, president of RDL & Associates; Richard Gorder, vice-president of the Wisconsin Farm Bureau Federation; and Kara O’Connor, government-relations director of the Wisconsin Farmers Union. The panelists said more efforts would be made to separate food-nutrition programs from the bill. While the farm bill is important to the dairy industry, Social Security, Medicaid, defense spending and the national debt were of greater concern to lawmakers and would likely consume most of the federal budget, they said. Dairy leaders need to do a better job communicating their priorities to Congress, they said.

An update on California’s proposed federal milk-marketing order was provided by Mark Stephenson, director of dairy-policy analysis at UW-Madison. California is struggling with severe drought, lower production per cow and land-use issues. A recommendation for a federal milk-marketing order for California would unlikely be made until a new administration is in place, he said.

“While much of Cooperative Network’s time is spent advocating on state issues, events like these help our members become better informed on a growing number of federal issues that affect the dairy industry,” Ward said. “The forum also gives us the opportunity to interact with Congressional offices to better explain our members’ positions and concerns.”

Representatives from the offices of Rep. Ron Kind, D–WI, and Rep. Sean Duffy, R–WI, attended the event.

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