Congressional delegation pressures Douglas for dairy aid

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(Host) Vermont’s congressional delegation is putting pressure on Republican Governor Jim Douglas to get help for Vermont’s dairy farmers.

The delegation says Douglas should use his influence with the White House to get President Bush to rescind his threat to veto emergency farm aid funds.

VPR’s John Dillon reports:

(Dillon) Dairy farmers are facing a financial crisis that Governor Douglas has called a perfect storm.

Fuel prices are at near-record highs, milk prices are very low. And many farmers haven’t been able to plant crops because their fields are waterlogged from weeks of heavy rain.

(Audet) “It is frightening.”

(Dillon) Marie Audet of the Blue Spruce Farm in Bridport says that her family has been able to plant just 40 acres of their 800 acres of corn.

(Audet) “And the price of milk is low, as low as it was many, many years ago. And the price of fuel is very high. It’s several thousand a month. I mean when the trucks are all going, and the equipment is all going, I mean, it’s like two or three thousand dollars more to keep our equipment going.”

(Dillon) Everyone connected with the dairy industry knows that farmers are in trouble. But there’s some political tension about how to deal with it. Governor Douglas has called for a dairy summit, and dispatched his agriculture secretary to Washington. But Vermont’s three-member delegation in Washington says the best thing Douglas could do is to ask the president to rescind a veto threat that’s delayed $1.5 billion in emergency farm assistance.
Congressman Bernie Sanders:

(Sanders) “What we heard the other day is that the Secretary of Agriculture in the state of Vermont was going to come to Washington to tell the delegation about the problems facing Vermont farmers. Frankly, we know the problems and we’ve been working very hard to address those problems.”

(Dillon) The delegation sent Douglas a pointed letter that urges him to “capitalize on your close association with the Bush Administration” to work on the veto issue.

(Sanders) “Where the governor and other Republican governors can be very helpful is leaning on the president and saying Mr. President don’t veto legislation that provides financial support to dairy farmers in Vermont all over the country.'”

(Dillon) Administration Secretary Mike Smith says he was surprised by the delegation’s letter.

(Smith) “But then again, I don’t know the sort of politics of Washington. But as I said, the governor’s main concern is getting federal aid to Vermont farmers. That’s the governor’s major goal right now, and any way we can do it, we’ll do it.”

(Dillon) Smith said Governor Douglas will work with anybody, including the White House, to free up federal assistance for farmers.

For Vermont Public Radio, I’m John Dillon.

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