Zombie Milk Commission Given New Life

by John McClaughry

Gov. Scott has just signed a bill to pump new life into the moribund Vermont Milk Commission.

As reported by the Senate agriculture committee, chaired by Sen. Bobby Starr of Essex Orleans, S.34 contained a lot of political findings, and directed the long dormant Milk Commission to recommend Federal Milk Marketing Order changes to assure “equitable” prices for milk.

After a conference with the House, most of that stuff disappeared, and the Commission was left to review and evaluate proposals that “enhance and stabilize the dairy industry in Vermont and New England and that may be appropriate for inclusion in the federal Farm Bill of 2018”, and send those views to the Vermont Congressional delegation.

That doesn’t sound too dangerous, and it’s not. But reviving the Milk Commission invites another Bobby Starr game like that of 2009. In a column then I explained in detail how Senators Shumlin and Starr tried to give the Commission the power to impose milk price controls on retailers.

By the time their bill got onto the Senate floor, the price control provisions were gone. Instead, the bill then mandated the Milk Commission to reconsider Starr’s previously failed milk handler tax and farmer subsidy scheme. That passed, but the Douglas-appointed commission declined to do anything about it.

Now the Milk Commission is alive again, and it probably won’t be long before Starr is pushing it to invent another tax, price control and subsidy scheme.

- John McClaughry is the vice president of the Ethan Allen Institute

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The Ethan Allen Institute is Vermont’s free-market public policy research and education organization. Founded in 1993, we are one of fifty-plus similar but independent state-level, public policy organizations around the country which exchange ideas and information through the State Policy Network.
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