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Public Statements

Milk Regulatory Equity Act of 2005

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Location: Washington, DC


MILK REGULATORY EQUITY ACT OF 2005 -- (House of Representatives - March 28, 2006)

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Mr. GOODLATTE. Mr. Speaker, I ask unanimous consent that the ranking member of the Committee on Agriculture, who I understand is on his way, and in his absence the gentleman from California (Mr. Cardoza), to have control of time for 10 minutes, and that they be permitted to yield blocks of that time.

The SPEAKER pro tempore. Is there objection to the request of the gentleman from Virginia?

There was no objection.

Mr. GOODLATTE. Mr. Speaker, I yield myself such time as I may consume.

Mr. Speaker, I rise in support of S. 2120. My original interest in this legislation was to address a loophole created in the interface of the Federal Milk Market Order System with individual State milk marketing arrangements.

Under the authority of the Agricultural Marketing Agreement Act of 1993, the Secretary of Agriculture protects dairy producers from predatory pricing by setting a minimum price that must be paid by processors who distribute fluid milk within a Federal Milk Market Order Area.

While a majority of the country is covered by one of 10 Federal orders, some States, California in particular, have enacted legislation which authorizes State agencies to regulate minimum milk price for intrastate sales.

Herein lies the dilemma. Milk processed and distributed in the neighboring State of Arizona, which operates under a Federal order, is subject to the Federal minimum pricing regulations. However, milk processed in Arizona and then sold in California is exempt from the Federal existing regulations.

And since the commercial product originates from outside the State, it is exempt from California State regulations. Because of this loophole, milk produced in Arizona and sold in California is not subject to any minimum pricing regulations. This creates an unfair advantage for out-of-state fluid milk processors.

This situation was first brought to my attention by the gentleman from California (Mr. Nunes) and I agreed to help resolve this issue.

The solution simply directs the Secretary to apply the minimum pricing regulations of the Federal order system to any covered milk handler if they sell a significant portion of their fluid milk production in States that have established minimum milk pricing regulations.

Mr. Speaker, as all of our colleagues can attest, Federal dairy policy is among the most complicated and politicized of all of our programs. Indeed, the main reason that it has taken as long as it has to bring this bill to the full House for consideration is because often the simplest dairy bills tend to act as magnets and attract all kinds of unrelated pieces that are in many ways controversial.

This legislation is no exception. While the original intent was to remedy a situation that has caused great concern to the California dairy industry, two additional provisions have been added to this legislation to address concerns elsewhere.

Admittedly, I was reluctant to include these provisions; but after meeting with members of the dairy industry and hearing their near universal support, I decided to move forward with the legislation as drafted.

The two provisions that were added simply exempt Clark County, Nevada from the existing Arizona-Las Vegas Milk Market Order and create a 3 million pound-per-month cap on the exemption for producers who process and distribute their own milk within the Arizona-Las Vegas Order.

Mr. Speaker, I am aware that some Members may have concerns about one or more of these provisions. As I indicated, I too had some reservations. But as I stated, there is near unanimous support within the dairy community, both the producers and the processors, for these changes. I therefore urge my colleagues to support this legislation.

Mr. Speaker, I reserve the balance of my time.

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Mr. GOODLATTE. Mr. Speaker, I yield myself 30 seconds. Just to respond to the gentleman, I certainly respect the gentleman's concerns. I too learned about the measure last Thursday or Friday, but this is very common with the scheduling of suspensions.

As the gentleman is well aware, we have been discussing this issue, and it has been on the cusp of coming to the floor for a long, long time. We need to attempt to resolve these differences, and I think the consensus, on the part of many, is that we need to proceed with this debate today. I think that is the best way to get to the heart of what is going on here.

Mr. Speaker, I reserve the balance of my time.

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Mr. GOODLATTE. Mr. Speaker, I yield myself 1 minute.

Mr. Speaker, I want to take a moment to respond to the gentleman from Wisconsin regarding the concern that this legislation is targeting one or two individual producer handlers to the benefit of the rest of the dairy industry.

We are here today to discuss how to keep the current Federal milk market order, something very important to the people of Wisconsin and other States, operating in a fair and equitable manner. I do not fault companies for their success. In fact, I applaud them for it.

When one or two companies' success, however, is based on a gap in the regulatory system, I believe we have an obligation to respond. In this particular case, millions of pounds of unregulated milk flows in your State commerce in direct competition with regulated milk. This certainly has the potential to impact markets.

I support this legislation because I believe that this milk should be treated the same way by the Federal Government that we treat milk that is in direct competition with it.

This is not about punishing individuals. It is about ensuring a level playing field for competition.

Mr. Speaker, I reserve the balance of my time.

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