Ag Department to milk board: Explore reform
HARRISBURG — Agriculture Secretary Russell Redding late last week called on the Pennsylvania Milk Marketing Board to undertake or recommend reforms to address ongoing dairy market challenges and to support and strengthen the state’s dairy industry.
“Pennsylvania’s Milk Marketing Law and the Milk Marketing Board have both served our state’s dairy industry well, but there is room for improvement and reforms to meet the needs of today’s producers and milk dealers alike,” said Redding. “This is an effort to initiate a comprehensive process where all stakeholders — including producers, processors, retailers and consumers — can offer ideas for making a stronger Pennsylvania dairy industry.”
Redding submitted a formal petition to the board requesting a hearing, or as many hearings as necessary, to find actions the board can take without statutory changes and those that require action by the General Assembly.
Pennsylvania dairy farmers have seen a steady decline in milk prices over the past two years because of sustained pressures on domestic and international markets, declining fluid milk consumption and growing production levels.
Redding’s action follows his testimony to the Pennsylvania House of Representatives’ Agriculture and Rural Affairs Committee during a special hearing on the dairy industry. Prior to that, the department partnered with the Center for Dairy Excellence to commission studies surrounding the growth and competitiveness of Pennsylvania’s dairy industry. Findings from those economic studies were incorporated into the petition.
Redding noted that both producers and milk dealers have benefitted for decades directly and indirectly from the state’s milk marketing system.
Pennsylvania still boasts at least eight large, regional milk dealers that are locally owned and operated. These dealers purchase and supply local milk to retailers throughout their respective regions, often under labels and brand names that have sustained for generations.
The state’s milk marketing law remains a sound and vital tool for the state’s dairy industry and has provided needed flexibility in responding to adverse market conditions, Redding explained.
“The Milk Marketing Law was enacted to be used creatively in times like this,” added Redding. “Eighty-one years later, the challenges facing our industry have not changed. They still require critical thinking and engagement from the public and private sectors.”