Dairy Small Business Assistance

The AMS Dairy Program provides information to assist small businesses in the production and processing of milk and dairy products.

Definition of a Small Business:

  • For the purpose of the Regulatory Flexibility Act (5 U.S.C. 601 et seq.), a dairy farm is considered a “small business” if it has an annual gross revenue of less than $750,000. This $750,000 per year criterion was used to establish a marketing guideline of 315,000 pounds per month. Although this guideline does not factor in additional monies that may be received by dairy producers, it should be an inclusive standard for most “small” dairy farmers.
  • A dairy products manufacturer is a “small business” if it has fewer than 500 employees. For purposes of determining a handler’s size, if the plant is part of a larger company operating multiple plants that collectively exceed the 500-limit, the plant will be considered a large business even if the local plant has fewer than 500 employees.

Information Available on Dairy Programs’ Website:

Dairy Programs disseminates information to provide businesses with Regulatory Assistance including changes in provisions and policies that may affect their compliance under various programs and to provide contacts for obtaining additional information or clarification.

  • The website contains descriptions of Dairy Programs policies (including appropriate contacts) with respect to the Dairy Grading Program, the Standardization Program (including International Programs), the Federal Milk Marketing Order Program, the National Dairy Promotion and Research Program, and the Fluid Processor Promotion Program.
  • Dairy Programs posts all rulemaking actions (which include program contacts and small business considerations and compliance information) with Federal Register links providing the full text of actions.
  • News releases and transcripts of hearings held are posted, as well as comments received on specific actions.
  • The website provides information to assist businesses in improving the quality, manufacture, and distribution of dairy products. This includes posting Standards, Specification, and Commercial Item Descriptions and the Grading and Inspection Services available, as well as requirements for becoming a USDA Approved Dairy Plant.
  • Information also relates to Dairy Market News and Federal Milk Marketing Order Statistics – made available to businesses in the dairy industry in order to assist them in making current buying and selling decisions and in future planning.

Written and Verbal Notification to small entities when a citation or notice of regulatory violation is issued:

Federal Milk Order Program

Parties are given written notice of violations of provisions of specific Federal milk orders with respect to payments to various funds (administrative fund, marketing services fund, or producer-settlement fund). The initial notification to a handler is an audit-adjustment letter issued by the regional Milk Market Administrator. If the issue is not resolved, USDA/AMS/Dairy Programs’ Order Formulation and Enforcement Branch writes a letter to the handler concerning the violation and monies due. If unpaid within 30 days of issuance of letter, the matter is forwarded to the Office of General Counsel. (Uncollectible accounts are eventually written off.)
 
Promotion and Research Programs (Dairy Promotion Program and Fluid Milk Processor Program)

Parties are initially notified by the appropriate Board as to non-payment of assessments due. If not resolved, the case is forwarded to USDA/AMS/Dairy Programs’ Order Formulation and Enforcement Branch to prepare a letter of non-compliance (for issuance by the Deputy Administrator) citing the Act, Order, and violation. If not resolved, Dairy Programs consults with the USDA's Office of General Counsel as to how to proceed.

Inspection and Grading Program

Under the voluntary, user-fee funded inspection and grading program, USDA/AMS/Dairy Programs’ Grading Branch conducts surveys of plants and the processes used by the plants. They issue plant survey reports citing problems or issues that must be corrected in order for the plant to maintain its status as an approved plant. With respect to product grading, the quality of a product is determined, and the business is notified if a product does not meet established standards. A plant may also be notified of a violation if it is found that incorrect packaging is used for a product. Under the audit-based grading program, the Grading Branch audits exporters of products to Europe and notifies them orally and in writing if their product is disqualified for export. If businesses do not remit payment when billed for specific services provided, USDA notifies the National Finance Center, who handles the collection process.