By Landee Kieschnick
TFB Communications Intern

Legislators in Washington will soon begin discussions on the 2018 Farm Bill. Dairy farmers are in good spirits as they anticipate former Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack will add milk to the conversation.

Vilsack now serves as the president and CEO of the U.S. Dairy Export Council.

“We’re not making a lot of money but our producers are at least above breakeven. The first part of last year was definitely a tough time but we have come up a little bit, so things are looking optimistic for 2017,” Darren Turley, executive director of the Texas Association of Dairymen, said in an interview with the Texas Farm Bureau (TFB) Radio Network.

A warm and wet fall, linked with a mild winter, left farmers with good amounts of forage for their farms, Turley said.

“Producers are in good shape on their feed and good shape on their climate,” he said. “We’re lucky in Texas with the continued growth of people and a strong market.”

As the Texas dairy industry edges closer to being the fifth largest dairy state, new plants are being built to expand the dairy contribution to the state, national and world economy.

“Today, basically one in every seven milk trucks is going to leave this continent and be exported. So when we start seeing that big of a portion of our market being export-driven, it’s a huge demand on our market to have good connections and good relations,” Turley said.

And dairy farmers look for improvements on the Margin Protection Program, an insurance program that farmers can choose to buy into in order to cover a certain margin of loss on their dairy farms.

“We’ve had a strong interest in the program but not a real high level due to how the commodity prices fell, as well as our margins are a little tighter in general,” Turley said. “The northeast and Midwest are in a tougher milk market situation and are really wanting to see slight modifications to some of the numbers and calculations.”