Dairy Price Support Bill Goes to Committee

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(Host) Senator James Jeffords says he’s confident that in the next few weeks Congress will give its approval to a new dairy price support plan that will replace the Northeast Dairy Compact.

VPR’s Bob Kinzel reports.

(Kinzel) Later this week, the U.S. Senate is expected to give its final approval to the 2002 farm bill. Included in this legislation is a provision that establishes a national dairy pricing support system that will guarantee a floor milk price for dairy farmers.

While the support system is designed like the Northeast Dairy Compact, a plan that expired in October, it is funded in a very different manner. The Compact imposed an assessment on milk processors whenever federal milk prices dropped below the floor price.

This new plan is financed by federal tax dollars and it is projected to cost at least two billion dollars over the next three and a half years. Jeffords says the change in financing reflects the power that milk processors have in Washington:

(Jeffords) “The logic says, if you are doing the same thing getting the same price without the federal government having to contribute – that’s certainly a better policy and that’s the one we will continue to pursue. And we’ll have three years to do it, but hopefully, then we can have an understanding of the logic and go back to the Compact.”

(Kinzel) Jeffords says the bill should make more than $40 million directly available to Vermont dairy farmers over the next three years:

(Jeffords) “And they will be getting it at about the same price, perhaps a little more or a little less, than they would have gotten under the Compact. So why we’ve gone through all this, it is an internal problem with regions of the country against other regions, rather than a logic and it is impossible to explain it in their logic.”

(Kinzel) If the Senate passes the farm bill this week, the proposal will then go to a House-Senate conference committee. Jeffords expects the dairy pricing plan will be part of the final conference report and that Congress will give its final approval to the bill in the next few weeks.

For Vermont Public Radio I’m Bob Kinzel in Montpelier.

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