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Cows grazing at Bob Zufall's farm in Lisbon, NY. Photo: David Pynchon
Cows grazing at Bob Zufall's farm in Lisbon, NY. Photo: David Pynchon

Small dairy farmers seek more from Farm Bill

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Today federal lawmakers convene to begin seeking compromise for a new five year Farm Bill. The $500 billion package sets the nation's agricultural policy.

Its biggest ticket item, though, is food stamps, known as SNAP. The House and Senate versions of the bill remain very far apart on how much to fund the food stamp program.

The bill would replace billions of dollars in subsidies to farmers with a crop insurance program, which could also pay out billions.

Dairy farmers would be eligible for that crop insurance. The bill also would create a supply management program to control the number of cows in the country and prevent an oversupply of milk.
But a group of dairy farmers says those provisions do little to keep small farms from going out of business.

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Reported by

David Sommerstein
Reporter/ Producer

The National Family Farm Coalition held a phone press conference Tuesday to say the Farm Bill as it exists in either house of Congress isn’t enough.

Gretchen Maine milks 50 cows in central New York. "Dairy farmers just cannot survive with the way milk is priced. The present prices are below our cost of production," said Maine during the teleconference. "No industry can continue to survive with prices that low. It’s not that the milk in the stores is priced too low. It’s that the middlemen are getting too much of the dairy dollar and the current pricing system does nothing to change that. We need a new formula that would be based on the average cost of production."

One line in the Senate version of the Farm Bill, sponsored by New York Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, urges Congressional hearings to move toward a new national milk pricing formula. But the provision is only a suggestion.

The Coalition says it’s lobbying the House and Senate to make milk price hearings mandatory.

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