What the farm bill extension means to Vermont - WCAX.COM Local Vermont News, Weather and Sports-

What the farm bill extension means to Vermont

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Onan Whitcomb's family has been in farming since 1867. He is not impressed with the nine-month farm bill extension passed by Congress during fiscal cliff negotiations.

"No, it does not help," Whitcomb said.

The extension does include the Milk Income Loss Contract (MILC) program through September of this year, guaranteeing farmers a minimum price for milk. Subsidies to help pay for feed were also extended. But that is not good enough, according to Congressman Peter Welch.

"The MILC program, which helps our dairy farmers, was the bare minimum and it is really not going to do all that much. I was extremely disappointed that the reform dairy stabilization program that would give farmers more price security and save taxpayers money that got left in the dustbin," said Welch, D-Vermont.

Whitcomb agrees.

"Can't rely on the business because nine months in the dairy business is very short term. Five years is more midterm. So, we have to do our planning differently, we would like to rely on it but we can't rely on it, so we just go around it so to speak," he said.

Bob Parsons is an agricultural economist for University of Vermont Extension. He says the farm bill is important, but lawmakers had bigger issues at stake during fiscal cliff negotiations. He says the nine-month extension is understandable.

"I think the extension, from a positive point of view, might have been because they said let's just extend what we have had for the last five years so that after we get past the financial stuff, we can sit down and talk about this reasonably," Parsons said.

But at least one Vermont farmer is not counting on Washington.

"I'm very optimistic. I gotta be optimistic; we just put robots in to milk our cows this year. That was a huge investment. So, we are here for the long haul. I don't know about the Washington politics how that will play out," Whitcomb said.

Congressman Welch says the push is now on for Congress to pass a five-year farm bill, before this nine-month extension runs out.

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