Two-thirds of Vermont farmers join dairy insurance program

WASHINGTON, D.C. — The USDA on Monday announced that 582 Vermont dairy farms — 67 percent of Vermont’s registered dairy farms — had enrolled in a new financial safety net called the Margin Protection Program (MPP). Created by the 2014 Farm Bill, the voluntary program offers financial assistance to participating farmers when the margin — the difference between the price of milk and national average feed costs — falls below the coverage levels selected by individual farmers.
An additional 28 Vermont dairy farmers signed up for the Livestock Gross Margin Insurance program which offers protection based on the margin between the cost of feed and the average dairy income. 
U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack said that more than 23,000 of the nation’s dairy operations — over half of all dairy farms in America — have enrolled in MPP.
In a joint statement, Sen. Patrick Leahy, Sen. Bernie Sanders and Rep. Peter Welch applauded the announcement. They said:  “We are heartened that so many Vermont dairy farmers are taking advantage of this new risk management tool.  We worked hard during the 2014 Farm Bill debate to create a program that would best serve Vermont’s family-owned dairy farms.  USDA staff in Vermont, Vermont’s dairy cooperatives, and the University of Vermont Extension Service all worked overtime to get the word out to farmers about this new program and in helping producers to review market scenarios to determine what levels of coverage would best meet their needs.”
After a record run, milk prices have slumped significantly in recent months.  Wild swings in milk prices are nothing new and highlight the need for dairy farmers to plan ahead.
Dairy farmers were offered a range of choices of protection to help them choose those that are best suited to their individual dairy operations.  Starting with a basic catastrophic coverage level for an administrative fee of $100, producers could also select higher levels of coverage at affordable incremental premiums set by the Farm Bill.  The U.S. Department of Agriculture Monday reports that nationally more than half of applicants selected higher coverage beyond the basic level.  In Vermont, due to the extensive outreach to inform dairy farmers about the new program, and to news that forecasts for dairy prices were declining, 63 percent of the state’s producers who enrolled chose to buy coverage for higher levels of protection.
Those producers who did not sign up for 2015 and are interested in enrolling in MPP for calendar year 2016 will be able to register between July 1 and Sept. 30.  Those producers now enrolled in the program will be able to make changes to their coverage levels at that same time.
To learn more about the Margin Protection Program, visit the Farm Service Agency (FSA) online at www.fsa.usda.gov/ or contact a local FSA office at offices.usda.gov.

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