Milk Producers: Congress Still Pushing Farmers Over Cliff

Photograph by Daniel Acker/Bloomberg

Dairy cows stand in the milking parlor at a farm in Illinois.

The National Milk Producers Federation isn’t very happy about the nine-month extension of current farm policy included in the Senate-passed version of the budget deal, calling it “a devastating blow to the nation’s dairy farmers.”

“After months of inaction, the plan that passed overnight as part of the fiscal cliff package amounts to shoving farmers over the dairy cliff without providing any safety net below,” Jerry Kozak, the trade association’s president and chief executive officer, said in a statement today.

He called the agriculture  provision, included at the request of Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, “little more than a New Year’s Day, hair-of-the-dog stab at temporarily putting off decisions that should have been made in 2012 about how to move farm policy forward, not offer more of the same.”

The 2008 law setting agriculture policy lapsed in September after Congress wasn’t able to pass a new five-year bill. Without current controlling policy, agriculture programs revert to rules dating to 1949 that have served as the basis of  all subsequent legislation. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack has said that the pricing policy mandated by those rules could result in a doubling of milk prices.

Kozak’s group had backed a draft bill agreed to over the weekend by the leaders of the House and Senate Agriculture Committees. It would have extended the expired farm law through Sept. 30, provided disaster aid for producers affected by this year’s drought and made changes to milk policy, including managing supply partly by setting production limits for farmers
who enroll in a market-stabilization program.

In a statement after the Senate vote, Senate Agriculture Committee Chairwoman Debbie Stabenow, a Michigan Democrat, said that while she had voted for the legislation, McConnell’s extension “reforms nothing, provides no deficit reduction, and hurts many areas of our agriculture economy.” She said her committee would begin work on a farm bill after the 113th Congress convenes Jan. 3.

“We’re starting 2013 on a bad note,” Kozak said in his statement.

From Bloomberg Government’s Congresstracker blog.

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