Could dairy farmers be worst hit by having no Farm Bill?

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With the current Farm Bill set to expire on Sept. 30, many sectors of agriculture will go on unscathed.

Many programs, including the farm commodity programs, food stamps and some research and conservation programs will continue without a new bill, an article in U.S. News and World Report pointed out on Tuesday.

Not having a Farm Bill won't be a problem unless you're a dairy farmer, the article says. Read more.

An important safety net for dairy farmers, the Milk Income Loss Contract (MILC) program, will expire with the current Farm Bill. 

Acknowledging this, a bipartisan group of U.S. senators has sent a letter to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and House Speaker John Boehner. 

“Dairy farmers across the country have benefited from the MILC program during difficult times and we fear that failure to maintain the program at its previous levels will saddle dairy farmers with significant risks as their feed prices continue to skyrocket,” the letter said. 

Here is the letter and the senators who signed it:

Dear Majority Leader Reid and Speaker Boehner:

Given the mounting challenges facing our nation’s dairy farmers, we write to bring a matter of particular concern to your attention. 

On Sept. 1, 2012, the Milk Income Loss Contract program, which has provided a vital safety net to dairy farmers across the country during times of low milk prices and high input costs, began to provide coverage at a reduced level. The level of coverage is so low that the program is not expected to be triggered even in these times of high feed prices. Most concerning to us is the change in the program’s feed cost adjuster, which was created in the 2008 Farm Bill to address volatile swings in feed prices. This change in particular has put our farmers at far greater risk as this year’s drought continues to impact much of the country and drive up the cost of feed. In addition, instead of offering dairy farmers coverage at 45 percent of the difference between the target price and the actual price, the program now only provides coverage at 34 percent of this difference. The program’s volume cap has also declined, falling from 2.985 million to 2.4 million pounds per dairy farmer

We understand that the Senate-passed Farm Bill and the House Agriculture Committee’s Farm Bill both move to eliminate the MILC program in favor of a new policy. However, until a new Farm Bill has been enacted and USDA has a dairy program in place, we urge you to find the necessary offsets to maintain the MILC program at its previous coverage levels for the duration of any extension of current policy. Dairy farmers across the country have benefited from the MILC program during difficult times and we fear that failure to maintain the program at its previous levels will saddle dairy farmers with significant risks as their feed prices continue to skyrocket.

Thank you for your consideration of our request. We stand ready to work with you to address this critical issue for our nation’s dairy farmers.


Patrick Leahy

Olympia J. Snowe

Herb Kohl

Joseph I. Lieberman

Bernard Sanders

Sherrod Brown

Al Franken

Robert P. Casey, JR.

Jack Reed

Kirsten E. Gillibrand

Susan Collins

Jeanne Shaheen

Ron Wyden

Richard Blumenthal

Barbara Mikulski

Scott P. Brown

John Kerry

Benjamin Cardin

Kelly A. Ayotte

Claire McCaskill 

Amy Klobuchar


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TN  |  September, 19, 2012 at 08:46 AM

Half the milk in this country has little to no safety net.

KS  |  September, 19, 2012 at 09:09 AM

Try being a hog and poultry producer. There is no safety net from the government. We don't sympathize with your hardship. Dairy has long been a beneficiary of government support while other livestock sectors figured out how to be more efficient and competitive. Then came ethanol and now we are all screwed.

MO  |  September, 19, 2012 at 09:32 AM

The misconception here is that dairy farmers have benefited from these programs. If you call a lifetime of lower milk prices due to oversupply a benefit, then yes you are correct, we are all “benefiting” from it. Economic history has proven time and time again that subsidies equal oversupply and over supply equals lower prices. This is not rocket science. It’s not even hard to understand at all. If you have too much of something the price for it goes down, especially if it has a short shelf life. The bottom line is when supply is going up or demand is going down there are only three possible sustainable ways to maintain the current price, cut supply, increase demand or a combination of both. Every other option will ultimately cause the price to drop. LOOK AT HISTORY!!!

Dr. Mauck    
Sullivan, IL  |  September, 19, 2012 at 11:35 AM

The "Farm Bill" is a food stamp bill with some ag stuff attached to it. Dump the welfare payments from it and then get a real farm Bill. Look at who signed that letter. It's a parade of big-government liberals.

Batavia, NY  |  September, 19, 2012 at 11:47 AM

We can live without another Farm Bill. It is all welfare anyways. And now the government wants to get the dairy farmers hooked on welfare with this supply management garbage.

curtiss wi  |  September, 19, 2012 at 07:18 PM

right!!! sure it helped when the price was down but it keeps it down!! and dr. mauck is right too make it a farm bill and have a welfare bill that stands alone let them take the flake for the big numbers!

WA  |  September, 19, 2012 at 07:38 PM

I agree that the subsidies should be done away with. They only serve to maintain a low milk price for a longer period. Dairyman will be better off without the government welfare!

Joe Dairyman    
USA  |  September, 19, 2012 at 09:13 PM

Milc is a stupid unfair program! It only helps a few. And I agree we don't have a farm program we have a welfare program and over 80% going for food stamps. With the price of feed going up we are using 40+ % of our corn for ethanol. Can you imagine how much more we will be spending on food security in the form of food stamps. Our goverment does not understand agriculture and how their meddling is making a mess of things.

CT  |  September, 20, 2012 at 09:04 AM

Lets end the farm bill, the boys in New Zealand got rid of agriucltural subsidies 20 years ago. Those of us who choose to stay in will figure out away to survive and thrive. We no longer need a dairy policy that dates back to the 30's

WI  |  September, 20, 2012 at 09:06 PM

We will be hurt more if they pass this so called Dairy Security Act. It should be called the dairy insecurity act. My greatest fear is if this program gets voted in and only a small amount of producers sign up and then it does not work it will become a mandatory program. I along with most producers I know have no intention of signing up.

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