Dairy Farmers to Vote on Money for Promotion Program
WASHINGTON (AP) _ Dairy farmers will vote in August on whether to continue paying for their national dairy promotion and research program, the Agriculture Department said Wednesday.
Agriculture Secretary Mike Espy said he received 16,000 signatures requesting the vote, well above the required 10 percent of the nation’s 145,000 dairy farmers.
The petition drive began in 1991 among Wisconsin among farmers opposing the use of bovine growth hormone, a genetically engineered product intended to increase milk production. The product still awaits government approval.
The farmers said the National Dairy Promotion and Research Board, which receives a third of the money, advocated use of the hormone. The board says it was only presenting the results of the scientific research.
Dairy farmers finance the promotion and research program through an assessment of 15 cents for every hundred pounds of milk produced and sold commercially in the 48 contiguous states.
For the program to stay alive, a majority of the farmers must vote in favor of it. While the Agriculture Department said it planned an August vote, no specific dates were given.
Dairy co-ops may vote on behalf of all of their members. If an individual co-op member casts a ballot, that vote is subtracted from his co-op’s bloc.
A nickel of the 15-cent checkoff goes to the national board. The remaining 10 cents goes to state and regional promotional groups.
The board says it spent $56 million on national advertising this fiscal year, including the ″Milk - It Does a Body Good″ campaign. Another $10 million to $11 million went to product and nutrition research.
Some states have laws that would maintain 10 cents of the checkoff despite the outcome of the referendum. But in 22 states, a vote against the checkoff would eliminate the full 15 cents, the dairy board said.