U.S. Senator Herb Kohl and a group of a dozen farm state Senators today met with Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack to discuss the acute challenges facing dairy producers in Wisconsin and across the country. Farmers are struggling with milk prices that have fallen to historic lows while the costs of production - including feed, fertilizer, and fuel - have risen drastically. Kohl is an original author of the Milk Income Loss Contract (MILC) program and during the last Farm Bill debate fought to strengthen the program. Earlier this year, Kohl succeeded in including $585 million in loans to support farming and agriculture as part of the FY09 Supplemental Appropriations Bill. The bill included $360 million for direct farm ownership loans and $225 million for direct operating loans through the USDA's Farm Service Authority.
"There is no doubt that Secretary Vilsack understands the desperate circumstances many of our dairy producers find themselves in. Milk prices have plummeted and the costs of producing milk have outpaced the price they get for it. Our farmers quickly find themselves losing substantial money. We emphasized that we'd like to see the federal government more aggressively use the tools at their disposal to help the industry through an extraordinarily rough market," Kohl said.
From January though April of this year, the U.S. all-milk price has averaged $4.80 per hundredweight below the U.S. average cash cost of production. Today, Kohl and Sen. Russ Feingold called on Peter Orszag, Director of the Office of Management and Budget, to take action to protect the industry from instability. They stressed the need for urgent intervention in the dairy sector and asked for increased support for producers through the Dairy Product Price Support Program.
Kohl is Chairman of the Senate Agriculture Appropriations panel and has continued to work for the agriculture industry and local farmers by including farm credit provisions in the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act that Congress passed earlier this year. He has pushed the Administration to fully implement programs like the Dairy Export Incentive Program to help offset low prices. Kohl also fought to include the feed cost adjuster for the Milk Income Loss Contract (MILC) program in the 2008 Farm Bill.