WASHINGTON, D.C. -- In a major victory for the U.S. dairy industry, the U.S. House of Representatives voted by a two-thirds majority Tuesday to pass the Milk Regulatory Equity Act, effectively closing a loophole that had allowed regulatory inequities between federal and state milk marketing orders in Arizona, California and Nevada.

The bill, S. 2120, passed the Senate in December; it will now go to the White House to be signed into law.

"This historic collaboration was instrumental in bringing this long-fought battle to a close," said Chip Kunde, senior vice president of the International Dairy Foods Association. "A level playing field will now exist for all competitors, regardless of where their businesses are located."

Until now, some plants in southwestern states were able to sell milk into a state milk marketing area from a federally regulated milk marketing area without complying with either state or federal pricing regulations. The new law will require milk processors in Arizona, including producer-handlers that sell more than 3 million pounds of fluid milk per month, to comply with federal regulations.

The legislation also clarifies that plants in Nevada selling into a federal milk marketing order now must abide by federal pricing regulations.

IDFA was part of a national coalition of producer and processor groups that supported the measure, including the National Milk Producers Federation, Western United Dairymen and the Dairy Farmers of America.

"As we approach the 2007 Farm Bill, we hope this marks the beginning of a willingness by Congress to reevaluate U.S. dairy policy to reflect today's ever-changing marketplace," Kunde said.

IDFA is the Washington, D.C.-based organization representing the nation's dairy processing and manufacturing industries and their suppliers. IDFA is composed of three constituent organizations: Milk Industry Foundation (MIF), National Cheese Institute (NCI) and International Ice Cream Association (IICA). Its 500-plus members represent more than 85 percent of the total volume of milk, cultured products, cheese and ice cream and frozen desserts produced and marketed in the United States - an estimated $90-billion-a-year industry.

SOURCE: International Dairy Foods Association via PR Newswire.