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Local farmers hope for action on federal measure

October 10, 2012
By ARTHUR CLEVELAND , The Leader Herald

GLEN - Farmers told their local congressman Tuesday the expiration of the federal Farm Bill has left them in a precarious situation.

"It's been a pretty tough road for dairy farmers and producers that were eligible for [Milk Income Loss Contract payments in the Farm Bill], they're certainly going to miss those, there's no question about it," said David Balbian, area dairy management specialist for Cornell Cooperative Extension.

Dairy farmers and members of the Farm Services Agency told U.S. Rep. Paul Tonko at the meeting at Karen's Produce that after the drought this year, prices for feed have gone up and dairy farming has become more difficult and less profitable.

Article Photos

David R. Balbian, area dairy management specialist with Cornell Cooperative Extension, listens with local farmers during a meeting about the Farm Bill on Tuesday at Karen’s Produce in Glen.
The Leader-Herald/Arthur Cleveland

Balbian said the ratio-to-milk price and the price of feed is at the worst level it has been since statistics have been kept.

Also, MILC has been cut off after the 2008 Farm Bill's expiration. The MILC program pays farmers a compensation when milk prices fall below a certain level.

"Without the passage of a new bill, we're left with a patchwork of programs," said Tonko, a Democrat from Amsterdam.

He said some of the programs will be able to appropriate money while others won't be able to.

Russ Kelly, who runs Glenvue Farms in Glen, said it would be helpful to see if there could be an adjustment in how farmers get paid for milk.

Tom Nelson of Dellavale Farm said that currently, farmers only get paid 32 cents of every $1 spent on milk.

The 2008 Farm Bill expired Sept. 30. It provided valuable programs to farmers and people in the agriculture and energy business, Tonko said.

Andy Michael, county executive director with the Farm Services Agency, said without a new Farm Bill in place soon, the government would need to revert back to laws passed in the 1940s or earlier.

Tonko said the bill was approved by the Senate in June, but the House of Representatives has been "dragging their feet."

With some representatives wanting to wait until after the November elections for a "lame-duck" session to pass the Farm Bill, Tonko expressed disgust at what he called a "deplorable" delay.

Tonko said he believes the delay is caused by an unwillingness to push the bill to be five years or to cut some of its coverage.

Democratic nominee Pam Gulleson of Bismarck, N.D., previously said backers of her Republican opponent Kevin Cramer are delaying the Farm Bill by threatening electoral retribution against candidates who support it. Cramer and Gulleson both advocated a quick approval of the Senate's version of the bill.

U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., said if the Farm Bill is not renewed, prices in milk could rise above $6 a gallon.

Bob Dieterich, a Republican who is running against Tonko in the November elections, said he agrees the Farm Bill should be passed.

"If we have to pass it as two parts, that's fine," Dieterich said, adding Congress would need to address issues such as these before they expire.

"We need real leadership down there," Dieterich said.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.



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