Senator Patrick Leahy is optimistic that the new 5 year federal Farm Bill will include several provisions to help small dairy farmers stay in business.
Every five years, Congress passes a major Farm bill that affects all types of agricultural commodities, from dairy to soybeans to corn to wheat.
The Senate Agriculture committee has just given its approval to the 2012 bill and the full Senate will consider the measure in the near future.
Senator Patrick Leahy said he’s pleased that the bill tries a new approach to help small dairy farms.
Leahy said these farmers will be allowed to purchase insurance that will guarantee that they’ll be able to recoup their production costs.
"We put in a program to give dairy farmers the ability to buy margin insurance that provided a minimum between their costs of producing milk and what they are paid," Leahy said. "In other words, if the cost of feed goes up or the costs of the pricing of milk goes down, this kicks in."
And Leahy said federal subsidies will be available to help make this program more affordable for small dairy farms.
"We’ve done it in such a way that you have a much lower premium for the average sized farm that’s a 200 cow farm… so they would have the ability to have better support." Leahy added, "On the giant farms especially some we have out west with a couple of thousand head they have the ability to insure their own."
The proposed Farm Bill also includes some cuts to the federal Food Stamp program. Roughly 87,000 Vermonters participate in this program. Leahy said he hopes to restore most of those cuts during the Appropriations process.
"We are only at the first start, we have not even had the bill on the floor yet. This happens every five year farm bill," Leahy said. "These cuts are going to be taken out considerably and then money gets put back in. We have to have enough of a safety net in hard economic times."
Leahy said the proposed Farm Bill also offers additional opportunities for organic farmers and allows the National Organic Program to establish rules to protect the integrity of these products.