As policy makers edge closer to releasing rules for the new Margin Protection Program (MPP) for dairy producers, introduced in the new farm bill, many questions still remain. In a webinar provided by Farm Credit East in June, Andrew M. Novaković of Cornell University and John Newton of the University of Illinois discussed reasons for choosing MPP as an insurance plan, even though all the program’s details will not be available until Sept. 1.advertisementadvertisementNovaković admitted it’s a challenge to decide now if MPP is the best option for a dairy farm when the USDA has not yet released specified details about the program. Upon the rules being made public, Novaković believes the program should allow producers at least two weeks to understand its details before they would have to sign up for the program.“Sept. 1 is an important date to note,” Novaković said. “Staying up-to-date with the latest USDA decisions will ensure that you are able to sign up for the program in a timely manner.”With the current timeline, the potential enrollment period may occur around harvest season.Both Newton and Novaković agree that while the enrollment period – both its start date and duration – has not yet been set, it will likely be long enough for dairy producers to thoughtfully make the right decision about MPP enrollment despite falling during a hectic time of year.Similar to the existing, but limited, Livestock Gross Margin for Dairy (LGM-Dairy) insurance program, this new risk management tool has been created to alleviate stress for all U.S. farms during periods of financial difficulty. In short, it protects farm income over feed cost margins as determined by the USDA on a bimonthly basis.advertisementThroughout the webinar, Novaković and Newton shed light on the questions about the new program that continue to linger in dairymen’s minds across the country.“What we do know are the basics of what the program entails,” Newton said during the webinar. “What we don’t know are the specific details.”What we do know:MPP provides a framework to protect margins from $4 to $8 per hundredweight.An administration fee of $100 will be required at the time of enrollment.MPP does not guarantee a profit or minimum income for dairy producers.What we don’t know:When the enrollment deadline and coverage start date will beWhether producers will have the ability to decide on participation on an annual or five-year basisHow premiums will be calculatedTwo potential strategies that dairy producers should consider are the “passive MPP strategy” and “dynamic MPP decision,” Newton said. The passive strategy locks in coverage for the life of the five-year farm bill, while the latter allows producers to change coverage levels on an annual basis.“Passive MPP strategy is great for smaller dairies,” Newton said. “Larger dairies should consider the dynamic MPP decision in order to improve the performance of MPP and to avoid net income over feed cost losses.”advertisementWith nine coverage levels and 14 coverage percentage options, a total of 126 different coverage combinations are available for dairy producers through MPP. The University of Illinois provides an interactive tool on their website, called the MPP-Dairy Dashboard, for producers to use and decide what coverage option and strategy is best for their current farm operation.Premium rates for the MPP have been fixed for the five-year life of the farm bill. However, there is still uncertainty about how premiums will be determined based on each individual producer’s coverage plan.The following questions remain:Will producers be able to move freely among margin coverage levels from year to year?How will the 4-million-pound cut point for lower margin insurance rates, as stated in the bill, be applied to actual policies issued? Will it be calculated based on a farm’s production history or its base? Or will it be prorated on how many pounds a farm enrolls in the program?Novaković said those latter two questions might seem like the same thing but that it may make “a fair bit of difference” to farms with 500 to 900 cows. For example, if a farm with 8 million pounds of production were to cover 50 percent of its milk with the new program (a total of 4 million pounds of production), preliminary USDA indications are that the farm might pay a lower premium for insurance on only the first 2 million pounds of production because the farm was only insuring half of its eligible production base.“All of this is as clear as mud,” Novaković said.Until the Farm Service Agency releases the final rules, it will also not be clear whether or not dairy producers who choose to enroll in MPP will have to participate in the program for five years or if they can opt-in annually.The question also remains of whether a producer can alternate between participating in MPP or LGM-Dairy annually.For example, if participation were determined to be an annual choice, then producers would have the option to utilize MPP when the markets predict greater risks for low margins. Likewise, they could choose to switch from year to year to LGM-Dairy when the markets predict less risk for low margins.“Dairy producers need to weigh their options even though we do not yet have a clear answer on the parameters of MPP and LGM-Dairy being used interchangeably,” Novaković said.Newton added that producers should not wait until the last minute to decide whether or not MPP is the right tool for them. He urges all dairymen to become informed of the rules and unanswered questions that may pertain to them in the coming months. PD
During each Olympic year, the Jamaica Administrative Athletics Association (JAAA) tends to hold its voting annual general meeting (AGM). This year should be another year of reflection as the delegates cast their ballots. You may recall that in 2012, Dr Warren Blake was victorious over both Grace Jackson and Lincoln Eatmon while in 2016, there was no contest and all nominees were voted in en bloc.I don’t know if we will have any contest this year, but one can safely assume that at some point when we return to our “new normal”, the whispers may get louder. The campaign in 2012 had its negatives, but among the positives were the good ideas put forward by all three camps’ manifestos in the lead-up to the election. Whether those were just words on paper or plans that were executed is another story, but certainly, it gave us an idea of how our administrators were thinking in terms of growing the sport. This year will offer a new opportunity for the JAAA to reassess itself, inject new ideas, and chart a course for making the sport viable for athletes while we continue to dominate on the international scene. As elections draw closer, there are a number of things that both delegates and the prospective candidates should consider. The athletics body will need to bridge the perceived gap between the athletes and the association. This can only be achieved if the athletes feel like they are a part of the decision-making process and are consulted throughout the year. Internationally, the establishment of athletes’ associations and Global Athlete highlights that globally, athletes continue to feel disempowered and dissatisfied, and oftentimes believe that sporting bodies do not always make decisions with their interests at heart. This also applies to Jamaican athletes whether these feelings are perception or reality. ATHLETE SUPPORT Athlete support is going to be even more crucial now than ever in the aftermath of the pandemic. I know that the JAAA supports some athletes through various means, but many athletes are often unaware of the medium to access such support, and in some cases, have not sought out these opportunities. Moving forward, this will need to be addressed in a big way.I would suggest that the JAAA hold stakeholder consultations with not just athletes as a group, but also other groups such as coaches, officials, and sponsors in order to formulate a comprehensive plan. The JAAA can also partner with the G.C. Foster College, The UWI, The UTech, Jamaica, etc, to lean on their academic expertise. I am not suggesting that aspects of this haven’t happened before, but, rather, that the next four to eight years are going to be crucial for us to build on the successes we have had so far. This pandemic has forced us to meet using online platforms. It is an indication, or reminder, that we can engage more persons, including those in the diaspora, through these mediums in the consultation and/or decision-making process. They are key parts of the puzzle on which most of our sporting bodies have not yet capitalised. MODERNISING TRACK AND FIELD The new executive body will need to modernise the sport of track and field in Jamaica, utilising the technological advancement tools available. This could include using smart-device applications for athletes to register, or update their bio information, or access databases. Athletes and their support staff have become technologically savvy and depend on their smart devices for communication, analysis, and information.Additionally, the general public at times wants to contribute to the sport as volunteers. Now is the time to engage the public more so that moving forward, people feel a part of the JAAA. The website and other communication tools will need to be modernised to connect all the different sectors of the sport, for example, access funding, contacting officials, donating to the JAAA, registering a complaint, or even accessing tool kits related to clean sport, girls and sport, athlete representation, and so on. The JAAA has had many successes, and we continue to win medals at the junior and senior levels on the highest stage. However, there are so many opportunities, so much more to be done, so I hope that in moving forward, the association will be the driving force for innovation and new thinking in track and field as we move into a new Olympic cycle. Dalton Myers is a sport consultant and host of The Drive Phase Podcast. Email feedback to [email protected] or tweet @daltonsmyers.