Milk Market Board Hearing Update

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Caption: Melissa Bravo speaks of local milk being highlighted. She holds up Chocolate Gold (3.5fat 8.75 solids) California Standard Milk from Pa farms – Photo by Mike Eby.

Yesterday I drove down to Harrisburg to the PA Milk Market Board to give witness statement at the second special hearing that was called for by the Department of Agriculture http://www.mmb.pa.gov/Legal/Documents/Petition%20for%20Hearing%20MMB.pdf.

A similar hearing was held on May 2. My testimony for both can be found on the agencies website. Or you can read the transcript of the hearing here http://www.mmb.pa.gov/Legal/Documents/May%2016%20Transcript.pdf

The Hearing: The request from the Department of Agriculture Agency asked this separate regulatory agency unique to our state to investigate, undertake, or recommend any measures that can address current market conditions in Pennsylvania. Two hearings have been held so far. I think we need more and one in each county and a individual letter sent to each dairy farmer to attend and say on record how this crisis has impacted them.

This three person board has the power granted to them to execute the legislative intent of the 1937 law called the Milk Marketing Law to establish reasonable trade practices, systems of production control, and regulate the production, the transportation, the disposal of, the manufacturing of, the processing of, the storage of, the distribution of, the delivery of, the handling of, the bailment of, the brokerage of, the consignment and purchase and sale of milk and milk products in this Commonwealth.

Given the preamble which was written to explain the justification and need for this law in 1937 it is necessary for we the consumers and producers of dairy to understand the crisis that was taking place at that time.

You see this law has not been updated, revised or repealed since then to any extent that any of us would say has kept up with the times. What then is its purpose? Conditions have certainly changed.

Here is the link to the Year Book of Agriculture. https://naldc.nal.usda.gov/download/IND50000139/PDF
The following quotation comes from page one.

“PROGRESS OF FARM RECOVERY. FOUR years ago American agriculture was in the depths of de-pression. Though farm commodity prices had dropped to nearly 8o percent below the pre-war average, the prices of the goods and services that farmers usually buy were at or above the pre-war level. This disparity was a cause of widespread agriculture ruin. Farm bankruptcies were at record heights, dispossessed farmers joined the urban unemployed,and farmers still struggling could not make ends meet. There was a tremendous surplus of farm products.”

While the next sentence about scarcity for consumers no longer applies in this global commerce we have today, the rest of the situation rings true today as it did then:

“Falling prices did not help them much, because their incomes were falling too as a result of declining trade and employment. The whole economic situation was out of balance.”. (1937 Year Book of Agriculture)

That is why I advocate for agriculture. This is once again the on the ground situation in our rural areas of Pennsylvania. Our farmers are in crisis and this law like so many others was created by the legislature in response to a crisis. It is not just dairy. The dairy crisis puts pressure on the entire production system as the farmers scramble to make income any way they can without adequate resources to do so.

Clearly it was the intent of the legislature that the purpose of this law and this board is to protect the production of milk in this Commonwealth.

Clearly it was the intent of the legislature that the purpose of this law and this board is to protect the distribution of milk in this Commonwealth.

Clearly it was the intent of the legislature that the purpose of this law and this board is to protect the sale of milk in this Commonwealth.

I saw and heard people of this Commonwealth at this hearing plead for someone in government to help the dairy farmer who produces the milk cover their cost of production before any more are forced out due to the refusal of the market players to give a damn about the employees who work 18 hours a day, seven days a week. That income has to be enough to pay the operational costs to do business. That income has to pay enough to maintain the operation.

I must tell you though, I saw and heard the chairman of the board, an individual who has been on the board way to long, whose term expired three years ago, get very defensive to a woman who is an expert on the dairy market and the forces in play. She came to the hearing as requested to share her concerns, just like everyone else, just like I did and I like so many in attendence were shocked at the level of adversity directed at her. In fact I would go so far as to say I am sick and tired of this type of response from men in power directed at strong minded woman who have earned the expertise they bring to the discussion. http://www.mmb.pa.gov/Legal/Documents/Bunting%20Comments.pdf

Update: Read the Letter to the Editor on page 16 of this issue of Farm Shine.http://www.farmshine.net/fso/05-25-18/index.html#) to get a full sense of the appalling behavior that I witnessed at this, the first hearing I’ve ever attended.

………Everyone is trying to help on the dairy crisis marketing issue, there is no need to get so defensive.

Now, as to the real issue at hand that I want your help with:

I am seeing and hearing two view points on this issue: We need a two tiered system of regulation and payment to address the two different roads that food such as milk and beef and eggs and pork and vegetables takes in this state on its way to the market place. Family farm operations are not factories. The regulations and laws that are being promulgated as a one shoe fits all approach to corporate food production are not working. The regulations and laws that were written to protect the family farm were not designed to regulate corporate farming.

The dairy farms need you the consumer to say enough is enough we don’t want the rest of them to die off. We need you to say you want your town, your counties locally grown food to be sold in a store in your town and county so that you can purchase it and put it on your plate.

Write your individual House of Representative and your Senator and your Governor and stay in touch with our Secretary of Agriculture. Plead with these men to do something to protect the remaining farmers left in your township, your county, this state.

Or if you would like, write to me and I will share your concerns and research, investigate and report on the dairy crisis. Melissa Bravo, Agriculture Advocate. Meadow Lake Farm Consulting Services P.O. Box 447, Lawrenceville, PA 16929. 814-574-4067.

PA Milk Market Board Hearing 2: Statutory Changes to Milk Market Law

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STATUTORY CHANGES TO MILK MARKET LAW
May 11, 2018
To: Board of Directors, PA Milk Marketing Board, c/o deberly@pa.gov;
Submit electronically to: ra-pmmb@pa.gov
Suggestions on statutory changes to the Milk Marketing Law: In the short amount of time I have today, I submit the following examples for consideration and offer my services to the board to amend this law and support efforts to modify or appeal this law so that buyers are required to compensate PA dairy farmers at point of sale above the cost of production.
Sincerely, Melissa Bravo, M.S. Agronomy, B.S. Animal Science, CCA, http://agricultureadvocate.org/
Candidate, PA 68th District House of Representative Vacancy – Platform Dairy Crisis
_____________________________________________________________________

The Pennsylvania Milk Marketing Board (PAMMB) was established to create stability in the marketing of milk and to give dairy farmers in Pennsylvania a fair and equal opportunity to market their milk. In continuation of my suggestions from the Hearing on May 2, I propose the following statutory changes be made to the Milk Market Law.
Preamble:
Update the preamble to reflect that PA wants dairy to be its number one agriculture product, use to be the third greatest milk producing state in the Union but has since fallen to 6th place [and list the number of remaining operations by county as of the passing of this revised legislative act,] and in order to market PA dairy products the following legislative findings of fact with respect thereto are hereby made:
a. WHEREAS, The production, sale and distribution of milk and certain milk products produced on dairy farms in this Commonwealth are of the utmost importance to the economy and sustainability of the rural communities of her 67 counties,
b. WHEREAS, serious economic conditions are increasing the cost of production to the dairy farm at the same time consumer consumption has continued to trend down, and monopolistic movement in the dealer and processing industry subjects the owner of the milk to fraud and loss of equity and capital,
c. WHEREAS, It is necessary to preserve and promote the strength and vigor of the inhabitants of this Commonwealth, to protect the public health and welfare, and to prevent fraud and imposition upon consumers and products by continuing to treat the marketing, production, transportation, manufacture, processing, storage, distribution, and sale of milk in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania as a business affecting the public health and affected with the public interest,
1. Modernize the health benefits of milk as suggested in my previous testimony.
2. Modernize this paragraph to reflect the actual cost to the dairyman, processor, manufacturer and regulator so that consumers are aware of the true cost of producing unadulterated PA whole raw milk, whole pasteurized milk with Vitamin D added, etc.…
3. Modernize this paragraph to reflect the current monopoly of the market. Amend to include the need for quota when surplus exceeds demand; the need for increase in production when demand exceeds availability; and how the cost or profit of doing so creates an unfair pricing practice under the current structure.
4. Modernize this paragraph to reflect production costs, marketing costs, transportation costs, regulatory costs, export cost. Amend to include a need to provide the producing dairy farm a guaranteed point of sale payment of the raw milk value (as is in the bulk tank) based on the use of modern testing procedures to determine its value. Weigh and component test at the beginning, middle and end of the bulk tank, transfer to the tanker at which the point of sale transaction for the raw product is complete transferring control of the raw product from the producer to the hauler. Amend to require the raw milk payment be received by the dairy farm within three business days and any premiums calculated or offered be received shortly thereafter. (In other words, make this more like the gas law – arm length transaction with a minimum raw milk value payment)
§101. Legislative purpose
In the exercise of the police power of the Commonwealth, and it’s capacity to regulate behavior and enforce order within their territory for the betterment of the health, safety, morals, and general welfare of their inhabitants, it is hereby declared that the marketing of the production, transportation, manufacture, processing, storage, distribution, and sale of milk in the Commonwealth is a business affecting the public health and affected with a public interest, and it is hereby declared that this act shall be and is hereby enacted for the purpose of regulating, and controlling and marketing the milk industry in this Commonwealth, for the protection of the public health and welfare and for the prevention of fraud especially the practice of accepting raw product from the dairy farm without just compensation for the cost of production.
I don’t have enough time to comment on the full law on such notice, but if you would like me to continue making suggestions on the remainder of the law or work with the dairy farmers in this Commonwealth to craft a law that suits their best interests, please give me a call.
MB. 5/10/2018 – 6:20 pm.

Dairy Crisis Hearing Comments, PA Milk Market Board, May 2nd, 2018

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DAIRY MATTERS! DRINK WHOLE MILK AGAIN
April 29, 2018
To: Board of Directors, PA Milk Marketing Board, c/o deberly@pa.gov
Regarding: Actions that can be taken by the board without statutory changes to the Milk Marketing Law I submit the following for consideration,
Sincerely, Melissa Bravo, M.S. Agronomy, B.S. Animal Science, CCA, http://agricultureadvocate.org/
Candidate, PA 68th District House of Representative Vacancy – Platform Dairy Crisis
_____________________________________________________________________
Preamble: The Pennsylvania Milk Marketing Board (PAMMB) was established to create stability in the marketing of milk and to give dairy farmers in Pennsylvania a fair and equal opportunity to market their milk. I would ask the board to give due consideration to the following facts and my query.
 Do you acknowledge raw milk is the fluid that a PA farmer takes from a cow’s lacteal secretions*?
 Do you acknowledge raw milk is composed of four major components: water, fat, protein and lactose; and contains minor components such as minerals, enzymes, vitamins and dissolved gases*? Data Source https://dairyextension.foodscience.cornell.edu/sites/dairyextension.foodscience.cornell.edu/files/shared/Composition%20of%20Milk.pdf
 Do you acknowledge that by definition ‘whole milk’ contains all of the components of raw milk*?
 Do you acknowledge that pasteurization is the process of heating ‘whole milk’ or ‘raw milk’ to 141 degrees F for 30 minutes; or 161 degrees F for 15 seconds; or 191 degrees F for 1 second; or 204 degrees F for half a second; or 212 degrees F for one tenth of a second*?
 Do you acknowledge that ultra-pasteurization is the process of heating ‘whole milk’ or ‘raw milk’ to 280 degrees F for at least 2 seconds*? *Data Source: Cornell Legal Institute: 21 CFR 133.3 – Definitions.
 Do you acknowledge that there are at least 1.6 million children enrolled in PA K-12 schools? Data Source: Pennsylvania Department of Education, Division of Data Quality
 Do you acknowledge that there are no more than 7,000 producing dairies left in Pennsylvania?
If you answered yes to all of the above questions, then I respectfully submit Pennsylvania farmers have the legal right to expect the PAMMB market their ‘whole pasteurized or ultra-pasteurized milk’ in 8 ounce containers to school districts where they pay school taxes, regardless of any federal program that pertains to dairy products. I would further submit each Pennsylvania dairy farm has the right to pay to have their personal logo added to the 8 ounce servings to market their product.
Given that position, and in light of this dairy crisis where every dollar returned to the PA farmer every month helps avoid bankruptcy, does the PA Milk Market Board have the authority to pitch a Dairy Matters! Drink Whole Milk Again marketing campaign to PA school district boards for the 2018-2019 school year with the understanding in that signed contract that all of the estimated $1.6 million dollars net return per day per child from competitively priced (compare to $2.00 for an 8 ounce of same caloric content energy drink) sale of ‘whole milk’ will be divided equally among the 7,000 Pennsylvania dairy producers that remain in PA?