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USDA and DOJ hold Historic Workshop on Competitiveness in Dairy Sector, Hear from Nation’s Dairy Farmers

USDA Agriculture Secretary Vilsack kicked off the third in a series of five workshops on competition in agriculture today. Speaking to a packed house of more then 500 small and large dairy farmers, FFA members and members of the public at the University of Wisconsin in Madison, Vilsack highlighted the struggles of those living in rural America and the need to explore the appropriate role for antitrust and regulatory enforcement in the dairy industry.

Vilsack was joined by Assistant Attorney General for the Justice Department’s Antitrust Division Christine Varney, US Senators Herb Kohl and Russ Feingold, Congresswoman Tammy Baldwin, Governor Jim Doyle, and Wisconsin Secretary of Agriculture Rod Nilsestuen.

Varney talked about the unprecedented collaboration between federal agencies on this issue. Senator Herb Kohl stressed the urgency and Senator Russ Feingold thanked the Obama Administration for their commitment to ensuring fairness in the dairy industry. Congresswoman Baldwin who represents many of the state’s dairy farmers in the U.S Congress talked about how hard things have been for dairy farmers especially in the last 18 months.

The workshop featured panel discussions on trends in the dairy industry, market consolidation and market transparency and included significant opportunity for producers and the public to comment on trends in the dairy sector.

There was no shortage of passion and emotion on the panels.  One included dairy farmers from across the country, many of whom were choked up when talking about what one called the “most difficult financial year” on her farm in her lifetime. Another man told of his father being able to successfully beat polio and cancer but not low dairy prices. One thing was clear among the dairy farmers represented – they support change.

These workshops are the first-ever to be held by the Department of Justice and the USDA to discuss competition and regulatory issues in the agriculture industry.  Additional information about the workshops can be found online.

“The dairy industry has been hit particularly hard over the past eighteen months, and, like other agricultural sectors, is experiencing consolidation and shrinking farm numbers,” said Vilsack.  “A fair and competitive marketplace is important not only for producers, but also for consumers, and today’s open and transparent dialogue with producers and experts will provide us with a understanding of the complex issues in this important industry.”

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