Milk-loss payments arriving just in time for local farmers

WASHINGTON — Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., on Thursday said $2.2 million in milk program safety net payments are arriving just as Vermont dairy farmers need them most, as spring planting begins. The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) last week announced the payments under the Milk Income Loss Contract (MILC) program that provides support in months when the price that farmers are paid for their milk drops while production costs remain high.
The MILC program expired in August of 2012, after the House of Representatives failed to act on a new Farm Bill. Leahy engineered legislation to reinstate the program, retroactively, in the New Year’s Day fiscal cliff bill.
Leahy said the payments are timely and much-needed: “Dry weather has allowed Vermont farmers to get a head start on spring planting, and these payments will help pay seed, fertilizer and fuel bills. Money spent by dairy farmers circulates quickly throughout Vermont’s economy, through local feed stores, fuel retailers, truck drivers, farm workers and the entire community.”
The most recent payments cover January, February and March. Leahy said it is fortunate that no payments were needed in November and December, when milk prices remained high, compared with production costs. Including retroactive payments for September, the MILC program has provided $4.2 million to Vermont dairy farmers since Leahy won reinstatement of the program.
The program is again set to expire in September, but he said that last week prospects improved for transition to a new dairy program that Leahy led in including in the Farm Bill that was approved on Tuesday by the Senate Agriculture Committee. The full Senate begins debate on the Farm Bill this week. Leahy is the most senior member of the Senate Agriculture Committee.

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