Budget deal includes overhaul to Dairy Margin Protection Program

MONTPELIER, Vt. (WCAX) The federal budget deal reached Thursday includes a major overhaul to the financial safety net that helps Vermont dairy farmers.

It's called the Margin Protection Program. It's sort of an insurance program for farmers when it comes to low milk prices. Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vermont, worked on changes in the budget bill that allow more farmers to sign up. The senator says all the changes could be worth over $1 billion nationwide, and Vermont would see a slice.

"We're talking about a $10 million-plus-- it could be a $20, $30 million program for the state," said Bob Wellington with Agri-Mark

"What it will do is it will offer farmers options now that they didn't have before. They actually will be able to put some cash into their pockets," Vt. Secretary of Agriculture Anson Tebbetts said.

The changes would reduce the premium costs, by 70 percent or more for some farmers, and make calculations and potential payments monthly, rather than bimonthly. They also direct the U.S. agriculture secretary to reopen the sign-up period for the calendar year 2018.

Leahy says the program will save Vermont farms from closing. Farmers tell WCAX the last three years have been terrible. The price of milk is way down because there is a worldwide glut.