Holsteins at feed bunk

Pennsylvania dairy cooperative members are nearing a major advance in transparency about how they are paid.

The state regulatory review agency on April 15 approved the Milk Marketing Board’s requirement that cooperatives print the value of the over-order premium on farmers’ milk checks.

The rule will be official once it clears a final review from the attorney general’s office and is published in the Pennsylvania Bulletin, said Carol Hardbarger, the milk board secretary.

The reporting requirement responds to one of dairy farmers’ biggest frustrations with the over-order premium, which gives a boost to farmers whose milk is produced, processed and sold in Pennsylvania.

Independent milk processors have had to list their farmers’ cut of the state premium on milk checks since 1997, but co-ops have been exempt because the existing regulation considers them producers, not dealers, in this situation.

As a result, a 2019 survey found a lot of uncertainty and skepticism among farmers about whether they got the premium and whether it is distributed fairly.

The board has said it’s aware of only two co-ops that have been providing information similar to what the new regulation mandates.

The rule change has been in the works for two years. Hardbarger said the complex regulatory approval process was slowed down by the onset of the pandemic.