Dairy policy in the United States has gone through many changes over the years, but the basic instruments have remained in place for decades. The Federal Agricultural Improvement and Reform (FAIR) Act of 1996 is best seen as a relatively small scale reform of dairy policy. Most of the income transfers from consumers and taxpayers to dairy farms remain intact, and the major economic distortions are unaffected. The major change from phasing out price support program is more one of form rather than substance. Some consider this a fundamental shift in U.S. dairy policy, but its quantitative impact is likely to be minor. Further, because dairy assessments associated with the price support are eliminated immediately, the net transfer from taxpayers to the dairy industry is likely to be higher than it would be if the price support program were left in place. This paper reviews the effects of this change and other dairy policy provisions in the FAIR Act and compares the implications of the new dairy program to implications of three alternatives: continuing the previous program, eliminating marketing orders and the price support program, and eliminating all policy interventions including import barriers. Copyright 1998 Western Economic Association International.
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