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Lack of farm bill hurts small dairy farms


UNDATED (WSAU)  Smaller dairy farms – including many in Wisconsin – are among those suffering the most by the lack of a federal Farm Bill. Small family-owned farms were still getting federal subsidies under the Milk Income Loss Contract program when the old farm package expired September 30th, and Congress never passed a replacement.

Many other farm programs continued into the harvest season, but the milk program expired. Benefits for larger farms ran out earlier – but smaller farms were cut off. The program gives support to dairy farmers when market prices fall before certain levels. And since last October, Wisconsin farmers received $75-million from the milk program – twice as much as any other state.

For a number of Badger State producers, the cut-off made a rough year even worse. Dick Gorder of the Wisconsin Farm Bureau Federation said a number of farms in southern areas could not grow their all of their own feed during the drought. And those farmers are now buying feed at a cost that’s twice as much as in 2009.

Gorder is confident that a new Farm Bill will be passed – but he says the gap is really hurting farms with low equity, and without their own feed source. House Republicans have held up the package because of a dispute over spending on food stamps, which covers most of the bill’s allocations. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack says he thinks the Farm Bill was stalled so Republicans could avoid a debate on the extent of the spending cuts they’re seeking. Wisconsin House Republican Reid Ribble of Sherwood says he’s not hearing from farmers – most likely because they expect a new Farm Bill to be approved by the end of the year.