Agriculture leaders says new farm bill may help when milk prices drop

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(Host) Vermont agriculture leaders say the Senate version of the national farm bill would benefit dairy farmers the next time there’s a downturn in milk prices.

VPR’s Ross Sneyd has more.

(Sneyd) The Senate Agriculture Committee has nearly completed drafting its version of the bill, which updates national farm policy every five years.

Senators have proposed expanding the dairy pricing program known as the “Milk Income Loss Contract.”

That’s designed to protect farmers if the price they’re paid for milk dips. Two years ago, the formula was changed, reducing how much farmers could be paid during a slump.

The Senate proposal would raise the payments so they more closely match what it costs to produce milk.

Vermont Agriculture Secretary Roger Allbee says that will be an important protection for dairy farmers.

(Allbee) “What this program, the MILC program would do, would be to provide a better safety net to make sure that if the milk price drops in the future, as it has in the past, that there would be a greater safety net for the dairy farmer relative to that drop in price.”

(Sneyd) Senator Patrick Leahy is the second-ranking Democrat on the Agriculture Committee.

He says he believes the expanded safety net is critical to the survival of the dairy industry.

(Leahy) "I think this will help dairy farmers stay in business if they want to stay in business. I think it gives them a floor that they can count on."

(Sneyd) Leahy and Allbee say the Senate bill would boost spending on conservation programs, including the cleanup of Lake Champlain.

And, Leahy says, farmers would get financial help from Washington if they want to move into organic production.

For VPR News, I’m Ross Sneyd.


AP Photo/Toby Talbot

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