Michael T. Scuse

Don't be surprised if the after-Thanksgiving mayhem of "Black Friday" shopping sales causes USDA to extend the sign-up deadline for the dairy Margin Protection Program (MPP) provision of the recently passed farm bill by a few days.

It's a possibility that literally occurred while Michael T. Scuse (above), USDA Under Secretary for Farm and Foreign Agricultural Services, was at the podium last week during a public forum at World Dairy Expo in Madison, Wis. It obviously caught him by surprise, and it went something like this:

"Sign-up deadline is November 28," he said. "Wait a minute… isn't that the day after Thanksgiving? Uh oh, that's Black Friday. That could be a problem for some people, especially for moms. I think we will have to discuss extending things by a few days."

As much as he was caught by surprise by the calendar, people in the audience were caught by surprise by his reaction when recognizing that sticking to the deadline might cause difficulties for some dairy families.

During his comments, Scuse also emphasized the commitment by USDA Secretary Vilsack to total transparency of both the MPP program and its implementation.

As part of that, Scuse encouraged everyone in the dairy industry to use the 60-day comment period now underway to give feedback to USDA about the program, as well as to ask questions about unique personal situations that may exist. He mentioned in particular those related to bringing family members into the business and to intergenerational transfers.

The forum was presented by National Milk Producers Federation and included a presentation on MPP decision-making tools by Scott Brown, a leading dairy industry financial analyst at the University of Missouri and the Food and Agriculture Policy Research Institute (FAPRI).

Of perhaps the greatest interest to milk producers is his forecast that although Class III milk prices will be much lower in 2015, feed costs will be even lower, resulting in a solid average milk price over feed cost margin of $10.87 per hundredweight.

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