Congress let the massive farm bill expire over the weekend, and for Vermont dairy farmers it now means the end of the safety net program known as Milk Income Loss Contract (MILC), which helps bridge the gap between what it costs to produce milk and what farmers get paid for it.
Secretary of Agriculture Chuck Ross couldn’t put a specific dollar amount on how significant the loss will be, but he says between February and July of 2012, MILC brought an additional $7 million to the dairy community in Vermont. "That’s a lot of money in this economy at this juncture in time," Ross says.
The farm bill covers much more than farm subsidies and crop insurance. It also provides essential support for conservation programs and nutritional assistance like food stamps. Ross says most of those programs will continue to be funded through mid-March 2013.
The $288 billion farm bill expired Sunday at midnight, and a political stalemate stopped Congress from passing new legislation. Debate stalled in the House, where leaders said the legislation didn’t make big enough cuts in crop subsidy and nutrition programs.