Thursday, March 15, 2007

Senate hears Vermont views of Farm Bill

The Senate Ag committee held a field hearing in Montpelier Vermont earlier this week. Senator Patrick Leahy is the number 2 Democrat on the committee. One very important farm topic in Vermont is the dairy industry. Until a few years ago the Northeast Dairy Compact was in effect that provided support for New England dairy farmers. I don't pretend to understand the details of this program, but it was a bitter pill to swallow when it was not renewed. I remember speculation at that time that this is one of the reasons that Senator Jim Jeffords left the Republican party and became an Independent in the senate.

At the Vermont hearing dairy farmers expressed their concerns about the upcoming farm bill debate (from the County Courier:

With 12 different witnesses, including Gov. Jim Douglas, speaking on a
variety of topics, the thrust of much testimony the Vermont delegation heard
Monday centered on pushing for mechanisms to bring a fair and stable price to
dairy farmers.
Several speakers raised the need for a regional pricing
approach across the nation, which would include regional supply and demand
controls.
Fairfield dairy farmer Mark Magnan was one such witness.
He also told the delegation that the fluid milk price should be decoupled from other
commodity pricing, and that the base price of any new support program should be
raised from that set in the 1990s.
Jackie Folsom, the President of the Vermont Farm Bureau, echoed some of Magnan’s ideas.
“The present pricing system does not reflect the present cost of production. The simple fact is the farmers need a greater share of the retail dollar,” she said.
Leahy repeatedly touted the former Northeast Dairy Compact — calling it the “single best tool for getting a fair price for milk out of market” — as a model that he
will push to bring back.

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