Vermont dairy farmers will be eligible for safety net payments retroactive to last September under legislation that U.S. Senator Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) included in the New Year's Day "fiscal cliff' rescue package, and the first payments will be made next week.
USDA Farm Service Agency Vermont State Executive Director Robert Paquin says that in implementing Leahy's provisions, USDA will issue the first payments beginning Feb. 5, under the Milk Income Loss Contract (MILC) program, which had expired last year. Leahy pushed to extend the program in the fiscal cliff fix as part of a short-term extension of farm bill programs. Leahy also used his new role in the Senate's leadership, as President Pro Tem, in insisting on renewal of crucial "feed cost adjuster" formulas for the MILC program, and that eligibility for payments be made retroactive to September. Farmers who had not exceeded the cap by September -- which means most Vermont dairy farmers -- will be eligible for the retroactive payments. Leahy also is the most senior member of the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition, and Forestry.
He said the formula fix was vital to Vermont farmers and that "extending MILC without a realistic trigger formula would have added up to an empty promise to farmers who are counting on this safety net."
The MILC program paid Vermont farmers nearly $11 million in federal fiscal year 2012, but no payments were made in September and later, when the feed cost adjuster formula expired.
Leahy said, "I appreciate USDA's prompt work, both in Vermont and in Washington, in implementing this extension. Farmers need as much predictability as we can offer them. But this is only a short-term remedy. It is a travesty that House leaders blocked action on a farm bill last year, after the Senate passed a bipartisan farm bill in June, and by a wide margin. As the new 113th Congress begins I have made clear that getting the farm bill done must be a top priority, period."