J. Mark Huffman
USDA Report Points Toward Policy Overhaul
USDA has completed a report to Congress reviewing the effects of various dairy programs, some of which have been in existence for decades. The report points out what it says are some inefficiencies, especially USDA's policy of both direct payments and price supports for dairy producers. The Milk Income Loss Contract (MILC) program is designed to help dairy farmers when prices fall. But the report suggests the policy encourages too much production, at a time when there's no market for it. The Dairy Price Support Program creates a price floor for farmers. USDA has paid that set price in recent years when it has bought up the extra milk production produced by the MILC payments. Milk processors were quick to seize on the report to push for changes. "Any way you look at this report, it presents an airtight case for fundamental dairy policy reform," said International Dairy Foods Association Senior Vice President Chip Kunde.

The Dairy industry is praising the first Surgeon General's report on osteoporosis and bone health. The report, released in mid October, finds lack of simple preventive measures puts an increasingly aging population at risk. The report says that half of all older Americans will have osteoporosis or be at high risk of getting it by 2020 - unless they start strengthening their bones now with a boost of calcium, vitamin D and weight-bearing exercise. High levels of calcium can be found in milk, leafy green vegetables, soybeans, yogurt and cheese. Vitamin D is produced in the skin by exposure to the sun and is found in fortified milk and other foods. For individuals who are not getting enough calcium and vitamin D in the diet, supplements may be helpful.