We will witness a piece of history when the hearing to amend pricing in the 11 Federal Milk Marketing Orders (FMMO) begins this month. A federal order hearing is a relatively rare occurrence, and the last one that addressed Class III and IV pricing formulas in all federal orders took place in 2006 and 2007.

Late last month, the United States Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) announced details about the hearing scheduled to begin on August 23 at 9 a.m. Eastern time in Carmel, Ind. According to the hearing notice, 22 of the proposals submitted by industry groups were chosen for discussion. Testimony will be heard by subject area, in this order: Milk composition; surveyed commodity prices; Class III and Class IV formula factors; base Class I skim milk price; Class I and Class II differentials; and the AMS proposal.

Witnesses will testify during the hearing. Upon its completion, there will be opportunities to review the record and file comments. After this process, the USDA will issue a final decision and, if approved, will announce when the amendments will become effective. If all steps stay on schedule, this process is expected to wrap up in July of 2024. For many in the dairy industry, that date has been long awaited.

Dairy farmers may testify during the hearing in person or virtually during specified time slots available on Fridays, starting on September 1. Preregistration is required, and details can be found at on.hoards.com/FMMOhearing.

A seasoned dairy economist shared with us that in the past, the USDA has welcomed input from farmers at federal order hearings. Consider making your voice heard, as thoughtful statements that relate to the decisions at hand will be valuable. The judge will determine if testimony is pertinent, so stay focused on the purpose of the hearing. USDA wants input from those who are directly impacted by a regulation, and in this case, dairy farmers’ opinions truly matter.