Scaled-back CWT plan garners support

Producers optimistic about program's impact

By Jean Caspers-Simmet

Dubuque dairy farmer Marvin Schlitzer is optimistic a voluntary supply management program will have an impact.

"The program is in place and picking up steam, and that's encouraging,'' said Schlitzer, who represents Swiss Valley Farms on the National Milk Producers Federation board. "It isn't everything we wanted, but it's going to be an effective way for us to take some excess production out. The program is certainly more than we ever had before.''


Schlitzer said those who worked on the program had no allusions that it would please everyone.

"Everybody isn't pleased with what we came up with,'' he said. "But to have 70.5 percent participation is quite an achievement.''

Swiss Valley will leave the decision to participate up to individual members. Producers who are opposed to the program can opt out.

"I was hoping we could have a more firm commitment but I think this will work out OK,'' Schlitzer said. "No member will feel that they're being forced into something.''

Schlitzer said his operation will pay the assessment.

"There's no question that we'll pay the assessment,'' Schlitzer said. "I hope everyone is in solid support at five cents. There are risks and costs associated with anything. If you're not willing to take risks, you're not willing to accomplish anything. With CWT, we have the first opportunity to do something for ourselves.''

Delhi dairy producer Larry Shover, a member of the central area council for Dairy Farmers of America, is disappointed CWT was scaled back, but he still sees it as the best opportunity dairy producers have ever had to work together.

"Five cents is a start, and now we have something in place and we'll be able to do more when prices are low again, and they will be low again,'' Shover said.


Shover said he believes cheese prices improved substantially in recent weeks in direct response to CWT.

"It's like late 1998 when hog prices dropped to 8 cents,'' Shover said. "The natives got stirred up, and Congress, the media and the Legislature started talking about tightening the Packers and Stockyards Act and making reforms. Magically, prices went up 20 cents within six weeks. All the talk about changing things died down, and nothing changed. We saw the same thing happen with hog prices last summer.''

Shover's cooperative will be deducting the assessment from all its producers.

"We're trying to control our destiny -- to; change the underlying situation,'' he said. "By funding it ourselves, we can work to make it most effective instead of being tied to what is doable politically. Through herd reduction, reduced milk marketings and export enhancement we can do what we need to do.''

Terry Wenthold, a Fort Atkinson dairy producer and AMPI board member, said that while his cooperative supported the original CWT proposal of 18 cents and 80 percent of the nation's milk volume, the board won't require its members to participate in the scaled back version.

"A five cent assessment is just a joke in my mind,'' Wenthold said. "It isn't going to provide enough money to accomplish much.''

AMPI will deduct the assessment for producers who choose to participate. At 5 cents, Wenthold said he'll probably take part.

There was a lot of misinformation distributed about the original CWT program and that caused a lot of Midwest dairy producers to oppose it, Wenthold said.

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