(Host) Governor Jim Douglas says he won’t support legislation to extend the state’s dairy subsidy program for another 6 months.
Last year, lawmakers and the governor backed a plan to provide 8.6 million dollars in special subsidies to help dairy farmers deal with crop losses, higher energy costs and low federal milk prices. The program expired at the end of 2006.
Because Congress has failed to pass an emergency disaster relief bill – a proposal that was expected to send 54 million dollars to Vermont farmers – a tri partisan group of House members is backing a plan to extend the state program beginning next month. The cost of the extension is 8 million dollars.
Speaking last night on VPR’s Switchboard program, Douglas says the state cannot afford to allocate this money at this time:
(Douglas) “I certainly support helping our dairy farmers but I don’t know where those legislators propose to find that money in the current or next year’s general fund budget the budget’s going to be very tight next year very modest increase more modest than in the recent past and our revenue performance is not as strong as its been.”
(Host) Douglas says milk prices have rebounded since last spring easing some of the financial problems facing farmers.
The governor says he’s willing to look at a long term subsidy program under certain circumstances:
(Douglas) “Now is not as critical a time in terms of milk checks as it was last year. But what I’d really like to see the Legislature do, and I’d be happy to work with them on this, is find a way to put in place a counter-cyclical program so that the next time milk prices drop as dramatically as they did last year or below a certain predetermined price level, we have resources to step in and help.”
(Host) Douglas says he continues to urge the state’s congressional delegation to back efforts to pass the federal disaster relief bill as soon as possible.