Congress Agrees to Dairy Price Supports in Farm Bill

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(Host) House and Senate negotiators in Washington are set to give their approval a new farm bill that includes a key support program for dairy farmers. The two billion dollar program replaces the Northeast Dairy Compact, which expired last fall. The plan will provide a floor price for dairy prices whenever federal milk prices drop below the cost of production.

Renewal of the Compact was strongly opposed by the nation’s largest milk processors because the program was financed through the imposition of surcharges on the processors. The new plan will be funded with general tax dollars.

Senator James Jeffords says the program has been authorized to run until 2005:

(Jeffords) "This is truly a remarkable achievement for not just our dairy farmers but for all of us who care so deeply about Vermont’s rural landscape and character. The dairy provisions in this farm bill will provide direct counter-cyclical payment to producers when they need it the most during the times of depressed dairy prices."

(Host) Congressman Bernie Sanders says the plan is the first step in securing a national compact program:

(Sanders) "But as you look into the future we have a lot more political clout because we’ve now united the entire country. Now we’re not going to be fighting against the Midwest, we’re going to be fighting with the Midwest to make sure that family farmers all over this country get a fair shake."

(Host) Sanders says the legislation will be retroactive to December 1. That’s a provision that will help many dairy farmers because milk prices were unusually low at the end of last year.

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