Leahy: New deal may be close for dairy farmers - WCAX.COM Local Vermont News, Weather and Sports-

Leahy: New deal may be close for dairy farmers

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SOUTH BURLINGTON, Vt. -

Dairy farmers in our region have been watching and waiting for a new farm bill. The last one expired months ago and Congress never could reach a new five-year package.

But now Sen. Patrick Leahy says dairy farmers in Vermont, New York and New Hampshire may be getting close to a new deal. The Democrat says the dairy provision would be a safety net for farmers if their income falls.

"Talked with a lot of farmers around the state, I think we're online for that. And of course the nutrition programs, unless you have decent nutrition programs there's not going to be a farm bill at all," said Leahy, D-Vermont.

That's been the conflict for months. Farm policy has been connected to nutrition programs, including the billions spent on food stamps. The House and Senate have been at odds, but Leahy believes a compromise could be reached soon.

"Make a $40 billion cut in the House... House Republicans. We have kept... we restored more than $30 billion of that, and we will," Leahy said.

Leahy expects the farm bill to pass within the first couple of weeks of 2014. Without it, he says the price of milk will skyrocket for those who buy it in the store.

Dairy farmers are also keeping an eye on their costs. There is hope the cost of feeding the cows will be affordable.

"So, more corn will be available, less going into ethanol, which should help to lower that price to farmers overall. Still fairly high price for soybeans, but it will be a little better on the feed costs, which are at least 75 percent of the cost to farmers to produce milk," Vt. Deputy Secretary of Agriculture Diane Bothfeld said.

Leahy will be returning to Washington after the New Year to continue negotiations. He's confident the final bill will allow dairy farmers to plan and keep them on the farm.

"Decent return, stability and the ability to plan, and I think we can do it," Leahy said.

Stability for farmers and people who rely on the food to feed their families.

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