Sanders hopeful for new dairy compact

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(Host) Congressman Bernie Sanders says that, ironically, the growing federal budget deficit may actually help Vermont farmers.

Farmers have struggled with low milk prices for two years, ever since the Northeast Dairy Compact expired. The compact allowed New England states to set wholesale prices above the federal minimum. Congress refused to reauthorize the compact. Instead, it passed a milk subsidy program that farmers say hasn’t been as helpful.

According to Sanders, the compact kept milk prices up by getting money from dairy processors, but the new program gets money from the taxpayers. So the tight budget times may encourage lawmakers to reconsider a dairy compact:

(Sanders) “You have in the country today as all of you know, we’re running up about a $300 billion deficit. And a lot of members of Congress who could care less about dairy farmers do not like that deficit.”

(Host) Sanders says he’ll continue to push for a national dairy compact. He says he expects heavy opposition from the milk processors. But he also expects more support for the plan:

(Sanders) “I think we have a reasonable chance. Again, for the first time, we now have Midwest and the Northeast and the South on the same page, rather than fighting each other. And if you’re an average member of Congress who could care less about family farmers, you don’t have family farmers in your district, would you rather have taxpayers paying that or would you rather have processors paying that? You’d rather have processors paying it. So I am not un-optimistic.”

(Host) The federal milk subsidy program expires in 2005. Sanders says that program could become the building block for a new national dairy compact.

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