Conference attendees look to speaker at front podium.

Digging into Policy at the USDA’s 99th Annual Agriculture Outlook Forum

by Laura Ginsburg, Dairy Development and Innovation Lead at VAAFM

If you’ve ever wondered what’s important to USDA, the annual Ag Outlook Forum is the place to be.  

Hosted in Arlington, Virginia, this year’s forum saw hundreds of people gather in person with thousands more virtually to hear directly from Secretary Tom Vilsack, Deputy Secretary Jewel Bronaugh, European Union Agriculture Commissioner Janusz Wojciechowski, and many other national and international experts on a variety of topics.  With multiple focused tracks, from supply chain challenges to frontiers in agriculture, there was something for everyone over two full days of programming.  

As the Agency of Agriculture, Food and Markets’ Dairy Development and Innovation Lead and the Center Lead at NE-DBIC, I attended the forum to learn about dairy policy outlooks, Farm Bill consideration, likelihood of market order reform, and to deepen connections with USDA staff and other stakeholders.  While digging into policy specifics isn’t everyone’s cup of tea, staying current on the conversation, developments, and regional opportunities is critical in order to develop policies, grants, and programs that best serve our farmers, communities, and natural resources of our region. 

The Northeast region is unique in the national dairy space. 

Because of the number of small farms, we’re the only region where the average number of cows per farm is 200 or less.  Along with farm size, our mountains and valleys impact supply chain logistics, while the sheer number of consumers within a day’s drive of farms and processing plants is much greater compared to farms in the mid-west and west.  

Based on these factors, some of the issues we’re tracking include CDL driver provisions, such as driver age, weight limits, and training programs; Federal Milk Market Order Reform; Farm Bill developments including future funding the Dairy Business Innovation Initiative and Dairy Margin Coverage programs; and local and regional food systems programs designed to build increased resiliency. 

As policy recommendations develop, we will be sure to keep you updated.    

For anyone interested in the Agricultural Outlook Forum, you can stream all the sessions here.

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