Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture officials are stressing the importance of insurance coverage to the state’s dairy farmers with open enrollment now available for the Dairy Margin Protection Program.

“Growing up on a dairy farm, I learned at a young age that markets, weather and farm life are never predictable, but in order to protect your operation from the unforeseeable future, insurance is a necessity,” said Agriculture Secretary Russell Redding.

The Dairy Margin Protection Program was established as part of the 2014 Farm Bill to provide financial assistance to participating dairy operations when the difference between the price of milk and feed costs, or margin, falls below the coverage level selected by the farmer.

Milk prices could fall to $8 per hundredweight if demand for milk doesn’t rise to meet the current oversupply. If drought or other factors affect the grain markets, farmers could see an increase in feed costs.

“Finding that balance between milk prices and production costs is never a guarantee, but that is why the Dairy Margin Protection Program is available,” Redding added. “All producers should contact their local Farm Service Agency as soon as possible to be proactive.”

Enrollment for 2016 coverage began July 1 and ends September 30. Participating farmers will remain in the program through 2018 and pay a $100 administrative fee each year. Payments are based on an operation’s historical production and will increase by 2.61 percent in 2016 if the operator is participating in 2015 coverage.