Federal Milk Marketing Orders (FMMO) may eventually get a hearing day later this summer. That decision ultimately hangs in the balance, however, as USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack still needs to give a green light for it to take place. However, the June 1, 2023, Action Plan on Proposed Amendments released by USDA does start the clock toward a decision on holding the first major hearing in over two decades.
That’s because federal rules dictate a hearing would need to conclude 120 days after USDA’s June 1 publication of its action plan. With the wheels set in motion, all interested parties must submit additional proposals for FMMO adjustments by June 14 at 5 p.m. EDT. Two days later, USDA would hold a virtual prehearing information session, and each organization can have one representative present at that meeting to state their case and answer questions. Modified proposals, in response to USDA’s questions, would need to be submitted by June 20 at 5 p.m.
If, after this process, there is a need for an FMMO hearing, the notice would be published in the Federal Register in late July and an FMMO hearing would commence around August 23.
A response to a petition
USDA’s June 1 action plan came about because the National Milk Producers Federation (NMPF) sent a formal proposal on May 2 to amend the pricing provisions of all eleven FMMOs. In that petition, the NMPF and its 25-member cooperatives contend that the dairy marketplace has changed substantially since the current FMMO prices system was adopted in 2000. To that end, the National Milk Producers Federation proposal made five requests:
- Increasing manufacturing (make) allowances
- Returning to the “higher of” as the mover for Class I milk prices
- Updating the milk composition factors
- Removing barrel cheese from the Class III price formula
- Updating the Class I price surface
Earlier this year, the International Dairy Foods Association (IDFA) and the Wisconsin Cheese Makers Association (WCMA) each submitted proposals to amend the make allowance portion of the FMMOs. However, USDA responded to that petition with a request to provide additional information to increase make allowances. IDFA and WCMA provided USDA with that information on May 30, just one day prior to USDA submitting its Action Plan.
All the FMMO proposals and related commentary can be viewed at the USDA Federal Milk Marketing Orders Petition portal. Making federal order updates is an extremely formal and lengthy process. Under the very best timeline, USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service may render a final decision by July 2024. Of course, that cannot happen without USDA Secretary Vilsack first granting a hearing request.