Looming large on the current congressional calendar is a revision of the Farm Bill. One thing that is imperative to do for the dairy industry is to get codified the wavier to serve milk with fat in it in school programs, said Rep. Glenn Thompson, R-Pennsylvania District 5.

“It is important to serve milk that tastes good and has more nutritional value,” Thompson said in an exclusive interview with FARMING magazine.

He said it is vital for young children to like the taste of milk and to go home from programs where milk is served and ask their parents for more milk at home. “We need to get kids to ask mom and dad to buy milk,” he said.

“I’m working to codify that in the Farm Bill,” Thompson said.

As chair of the Ag Committee’s Nutrition subcommittee, much of Thompson’s thinking about farm policy looks at pull from the consumer side rather than push from agribusiness.

U.S. Rep. Glenn Thompson, from Pennsylvania’s Fifth District (left) joins Illinois Rep. Rodney Davis in a series of listening sessions with farmers and farm businesses. Photo by Curt Harler

Thompson pointed to the Infrastructure Bill that is making its way to the White House. It is another place he sees a chance to boost the Northeast’s dairy industry. He wants public partnerships to create more processing industries for milk. The Northeast farm region is surrounded by huge urban markets. Thompson sees both marketing opportunities for farmers and profit opportunities for businesses in coming up with new processing for milk. Cheese and ice cream are two obvious areas. Plus, Thompson told FARMING, he would like to see work on ultra-filtered milk and similar advanced markets for dairy products.

Another key area he sees is improvement of the margin protection program. This is one area sure to be addressed in the upcoming Farm Bill. Thompson said it is vital that farmers have a program that will pay off in difficult times.

“We need to give farmers the right tools for risk management,” Thompson said. He expanded on that idea, paralleling the comments offered by many producers at a listening session during the Farm Progress Show this past week (see related article) about the need for crop insurance.

Thompson said it is important that government officials give careful thought as to how policy influences the markets.

Already this year, Thompson has gotten an earful on policy. While this week’s Farm Progress listening sessions focused on farmers and agribusiness, his committee has held 18 separate hearings on the nutrition angle of farm output.

“There is not a calorie consumed under the nutrition program that is not raised by a farm family,” Thompson said.

In the wake of the recent Houston floods, Thompson pointed out the American tradition of “neighbors helping neighbors.” Assuring that everyone has food is one of those instances, Thompson maintained.

Some producers look at the Farm Bill and wonder why such a large chunk of it goes to nutrition and government aid programs. While Thompson conceded there is a need to eliminate fraud in government programs, he insisted that such programs are vital both for the needy and for farmers.

“Nutrition is a very important part of the Farm Bill. And the Farm Bill is the most important place for it,” he said.