AGRICULTURE, RURAL DEVELOPMENT, FOOD AND DRUG ADMINISTRATION, AND RELATED AGENCIES APPROPRIATIONS ACT, 2006--Continued -- (Senate - September 20, 2005)
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Mr. SPECTER. Mr. President, I wish to describe my amendment to the fiscal year 2006 Agriculture appropriations legislation. My amendment would extend the Milk Income Loss Contract, MILC, program for 2 years. It is imperative that we extend this crucial program for our dairy farmers that expires at the end of this month.
The MILC program provides a safety-net for farmers when the price of milk falls below a set price per hundredweight, or 100 pounds of milk, roughly 11 gallons. Dairy farmers in Pennsylvania, and across the country, are an integral component of our rural economy. In Pennsylvania alone, agriculture is our No. 1 industry with dairy being the largest sector composing over 40 percent of the industry. We need to ensure that dairy farmers, like most farmers in America, have the protection needed when the price they receive for their milk falls.
During the consideration of the 2002 farm bill, I coauthored this program to provide payments to dairy farmers when the price of Class I fluid milk falls below $16.94 per hundredweight. This program applies to all dairy farmers in the United States, from my former home State of Kansas to Oregon to Georgia and all the way up to Maine.
When the milk prices are low, as they were in 2002 and part of 2003, the MILC program partially supplements dairy farm income to bridge the gap until prices recover. When the milk prices are strong, the program is dormant. This was the case for most of 2004 and 2005. However, one payment of 3 cents per hundredweight was made in June.
However, dairy economists forecast that the price of milk will fall in 2006 below the set price established in the MILC program. Thus, there is an urgency to extend this program to ensure that our dairy farmers continue to have the safety-net of the MILC program. If prices fall and the MILC program is not in place, our farmers will suffer tremendous losses.
I urge my fellow Senators to support this amendment and America's dairy farmers.