Letter - Farm bill is welcome exception to Washington gridlockWhile gridlock grips most of Washington, the House and Senate agriculture committees are making surprising progress toward enacting a new farm bill.
To the editor:
While gridlock grips most of Washington, the House and Senate agriculture committees are making surprising progress toward enacting a new farm bill.
That’s especially good news for those of us who milk cows. We took a beating in the 2008-2009 recession and 2012 is shaping up to be another difficult year.
The recession proved the elaborate system of federal supports that are supposed to shore up dairy farmers in tough times doesn’t work anymore. The problem is policies that focus on prices, when the real issue today is margins: the difference between milk and feed prices.
Thankfully, Congress is aware of the problem and starting to act. The farm bill passed by the Senate Agriculture Committee late last month included language introduced by Seventh District Congressman Collin Peterson that reorients federal dairy programs.
Under the Peterson language, federal support kicks in only when margins are seriously squeezed. To counter particularly steep price declines or prolonged periods of low margins, farmers can elect to insure themselves against poor margins. For those who don’t want the government telling them how much milk to produce, the whole program is voluntary.
Congressman Peterson made some last-minute changes in the language that assured its passage in the Senate committee. The next step is to pass the bill on the Senate floor, which could happen later this month. Then it’s on to the House, which has held extensive hearings in preparation for writing its own farm bill later in the year.
Milk is Minnesota’s fourth leading farm commodity, generating more than $1.4 billion in revenues annually. But Minnesota dairy farmers need a safety net that works and addresses the problems they face today. The Senate committee language does both. It deserves support from our entire congressional delegation.