Government relations: NMPF advances nutrition and ag labor reform priorities

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Source: National Milk Producers Federation

Highlights

  • Maintained protection of 1% flavored milk in school meal programs
  • Led eleven national agricultural, anti-hunger, nutrition, and medical groups in a virtual listening session urging the White House to prioritize access to affordable, diverse and nutritious foods
  • Helped organize a message from 446 agricultural stakeholders calling on the Senate to pass ag labor reform this year
  • Urged President Biden to grant dairy access to the H-2A agricultural guestworker visa program

NMPF has made significant progress in advancing policy on behalf of its members in 2022, despite the slowing pace of legislation typical to an election year.

NMPF’s work on federal nutrition programs made significant inroads. Ensuring students access to healthy milk has long been a dairy priority, with NMPF leading efforts to safeguard schools’ ability to choose the milk varieties they serve. USDA in February issued a final rule protecting the allowance of 1% flavored milk in school meal programs through the 2023-24 school year, and the House Committee on Education and Labor in July approved a child nutrition reauthorization bill which bars USDA from preventing schools from offering milk varieties that are consistent with the Dietary Guidelines for Americans (DGA). The House bill, if enacted, would protect 1% flavored milk and all varieties consistent with the DGA as options for schools. Equally important, it signals to USDA and other policy makers that protecting milk varieties consistent with the DGA is a House priority.

NMPF is also advocating for increased access to affordable, diverse, and nutritious food in all federal nutrition programs. This summer’s focus has been on the White House as it crafts its nutrition strategy to be released at its Conference on Hunger, Nutrition, and Health later this month. In June, NMPF led 11 national agricultural, anti-hunger, nutrition, and medical groups in a virtual listening session urging the White House to prioritize increased access to food and providing in federal programs food options that allow for cultural influences, nutritional needs, and taste preferences.

NMPF also has led focused efforts on agricultural labor reform. Senators Mike Crapo, R-ID, and Michael Bennet, D-CO, continued their negotiations on an ag labor reform measure in 2022, working on improvements to the bipartisan House-passed Farm Workforce Modernization Act that will provide the changes vital for agricultural producers and maintain protections for farm workers. NMPF has been assisting this delicate process, informing Senate offices of dairy’s specific workforce needs and building broader support for passing ag labor reform. In addition to meeting with key Senate offices, NMPF helped organize a message to all senators and leadership in August from 446 agricultural stakeholders calling on the Senate to pass agricultural workforce reform this Congress, citing rising food costs and the current labor market crisis as adding to the dire need for reform.

Outside Congress, NMPF continues to explore more immediate relief for dairy farmers, urging the Biden Administration to allow dairy access to the H-2A agricultural guestworker visa program. NMPF president and CEO Jim Mulhern wrote President Biden in May, imploring him to issue an executive order to exempt dairy worker positions from H-2A’s seasonality requirement. This would allow dairy farmers access to the guestworker program. Given dairy’s worsening workforce situation, the nation’s inflation challenges, and the administration’s interest in immigration reform, this has been the right time for NMPF to renew its relevant and increasingly urgent request.