U.S. Senator Tammy Baldwin today led a bipartisan letter with her colleagues Senators Kelly Ayotte (R-NH), Susan Collins (R-ME), Al Franken (D-MN), Angus King (I-ME), Bernie Sanders (D-VT), Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), Chuck Schumer (D-NY), Chris Murphy (D-CT), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Jack Reed (D-RI), Ben Cardin (D-MD), and Robert Casey (D-PA) urging the Farm Bill Conference Committee to consider extending the current Milk Income Loss Contract (MILC) program until a new dairy program is implemented.
The House and Senate-passed Farm Bills put a new margin protection program in place, but it will take several months to implement. During this time, the Senate-passed Farm Bill extends the MILC program until farmers can enroll in the new dairy program. However, the House-passed bill does not extend the MILC program and provides no immediate safety net during this period, only a retroactive payment once the new program is up and running. Many farmers could struggle to make ends meet if milk prices fell during this long interim period.
When the Farm Bill Conference Committee comes together next week to find a resolution to a five-year Farm Bill, Baldwin and her colleagues ask that they support the approach in the Senate-passed bill and extend the MILC program.
They write, "The dairy industry has been hit particularly hard by the delay in passing a five-year farm bill. For two years in a row, farmers have headed into the fall without a safety net to protect against dramatic price swings. Dairy economists looking ahead to early next year are forecasting falling milk prices coupled with a decrease in exports. Congress needs to provide dairy producers with certainty and a reliable safety net as they head into this transitional period."
The text of the letter can be found below:
October 24, 2013
The Honorable Debbie Stabenow The Honorable Thad Cochran
Chairwoman Ranking Member
Senate Committee on Agriculture, Senate Committee on Agriculture,
Nutrition and Forestry Nutrition and Forestry
328A Russell Senate Office Building 328A Russell Senate Office Building
Washington, DC, 20510 Washington, DC, 20510
Dear Chairwoman Stabenow and Ranking Member Cochran,
As you prepare to reconcile the House and Senate farm bills with the House of Representatives, we write in strong support of the provision in the Senate bill that would extend the Milk Income Loss Contract (MILC) program until a new dairy program is implemented.
Dairy farmers across the country are preparing to enroll in the new margin protection program proposed in both the Senate and House version of the farm bills. However, the development of this new program will take several months to complete. In the meantime, our producers need a safety net they can rely on. For this reason, we strongly urge you to extend the existing Milk Income Loss Contract (MILC) program until the new program is ready for nationwide implementation.
The dairy industry has been hit particularly hard by the delay in passing a five year farm bill. For two years in a row, farmers have headed into the fall without a safety net to protect against dramatic price swings. Dairy economists looking ahead to early next year are forecasting falling milk prices coupled with a decrease in exports. Congress needs to provide dairy producers with certainty and a reliable safety net as they head into this transitional period.
Both the House and Senate passed bills contain a gap between the enactment and implementation of dairy reform. The House bill asks farmers to wait for many months until the new program kicks in before they could receive retroactive coverage. However, this is a new program with payment rates that farmers are unfamiliar with and many farmers simply do not have the resources available to allow them to wait for months for retroactive coverage.
We support the approach included in the Senate bill, which makes MILC available to farmers during this interim period at the standard 45 percent payment rate. This will provide much-needed certainty for our dairy farmers and their families as they prepare for dairy reform. We urge you to extend the existing MILC program until the new program is fully implemented.