For Immediate Release For further information contact:
September 29, 1999 David Ferch at (802) 229-1941
THE NORTHEAST DAIRY COMPACT WILL CONTINUE TO PROVIDE A SAFETY NET TO FARMERS.
MONTPELIER, VT. -- The Northeast Dairy Compact was granted a reprieve today when it was learned that the agricultural appropriations bill has not excluded dairy compacts, said Ken Becker, executive director of the interstate regulatory agency credited with stabilizing a volatile milk market.
Becker spoke at a press conference with Gov. Howard Dean and Harold Howrigan, president of the St. Albans Cooperative Creamery.
Congressional reauthorization is required for the Commission to operate beyond October 1. Stalled negotiations in Congress pose a serious threat to the Compact's continuation. A number of key Senators and Representatives have refused to sign an unfavorable version of the conference report because it failed to include dairy provisions, among other things. "Compact supporters still have a very real opportunity to fight for the Compact and seek reauthorization through the agriculture appropriations bill," said Becker.
Although the agriculture appropriations probably will not be resolved by the Friday deadline, the Northeast Dairy Compact will be in business for the time being to continue to provide a safety net for farmers in the Northeast. This is because a federal district court judge issued a temporary restraining order Tuesday evening prohibiting Secretary Dan Glickman of USDA from enacting federal milk market order reform, which was scheduled for Friday.
Although Judge Sessions' TRO does not explicitly discuss the Compact, the practical result will be to continue existing authorization until further resolution of the court case. The Legislation defines the timing of the Compact's authorization in terms of implementation of federal milk price reform. If the judge extends the order, the Compact's authorization will be continued for the same amount of time.
The judge's TRO is only a stop-gap measure. Farmers and consumers need to pressure Congress to reauthorize the Compact as quickly as possible. Congress will continue to grapple with this issue through the agriculture appropriations bill and through other bills. In spite of discouraging news out of Washington last night, the Northeast Dairy Compact Commission is confident there will be reauthorization because its track record is unambiguous. The Compact has helped farmers by shielding them from wild fluctuations in farm prices. Consumers have been helped because productive local dairy farms result in lower retail milk prices. States benefit because rural economies have been protected and strengthened.
This positive evidence runs counter to claims by opposition forces that the Compact is a bad thing for farmers and consumers. The Commission is confident that when Congress has an opportunity to study the evidence of the Compact and compare it to the unsubstantiated allegations of the opposition, then reauthorization will be a forgone conclusion.