House and Senate members from dairy states are seeking a temporary fix for the dairy safety net until the new dairy program that is included in both the Senate and House farm bill versions can become law. Both bills would end the Milk Income Loss Contract (MILC) program and replace it with a new insurance program for dairy farmers and would ideally have been in place by the time current farm programs expire on September 30. However, despite Senate passage of farm legislation, the House has yet to act on its version.
A letter to House and Senate leaders, signed by a total of 60 lawmakers of both houses, was initiated by Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) and Sen. Olympia Snowe (R-Maine) in the Senate, and by Rep. Reid Ribble (R-Wis.) and Rep. Peter Welch (D-Vt.) in the House. They urge that until a new Farm Bill has been enacted and USDA has a dairy program in place, offsets be found to maintain the MILC program at its previous coverage levels for the duration of any extension of current policy. The legislative vehicle for this remedy could be a short-term extension of the current farm bill, or a drought disaster relief bill, or other legislation.
Rep. Ribble notes that parts of the MILC program changed on September 1 and will result in coverage levels so low that the program is not expected to be triggered even in these times of high feed prices, leaving individual dairy farmers with no safety net. â€œWith drought-related feeds costs soaring, this new gap in coverage threatens to leave dairy producers in the lurch until a new Farm Bill is enacted,â€ says a press release from Ribbleâ€™s office. â€œEven a straight extension of the current Farm Bill would still leave MILC program rates at the lower level. According to dairy economists, this decline in the MILC feed cost adjuster would prevent the program from providing any support to the nationâ€™s dairy farmers, despite soaring feed costs caused by the nationâ€™s crippling drought.â€
World Dairy Diary