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Government and Politics


Farm Bill compromise may steer payments for small dairy farms to megafarms
Congressional compromise is expected this week
Story by LEWIS WALLACE


 
Dairy farming has moved largely beyond the small family farms captured in this USDA photo.
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This week, a congressional committee is expected to come out with a compromise on the Farm Bill after months of debate. For Ohio Public Radio, WYSO’s Lewis Wallace reports that lawmakers agree the bill should provide some kind of safety net for dairy farmers — but they’re hung up on just what that should be.

LISTEN: The farm bill and dairy protections

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When milk prices drop below a certain point, smaller farmers have been able to get help from the government—it’s been that way since 2002.

That program is called the Milk Income Loss Contract, or MILC for short.

But MILC’s days are numbered.

Cameron Thraen is a professor of economics at Ohio State University. He says the outcome of the current debate will probably be a new program that acts almost as insurance, but would be available to farms of all sizes -- even the mega-farms.

"By doing that there would be a fairly significant shift in the distribution of these benefits away from the small-scale producers towards the larger-scale producers.

He believes there’s another way to cover everyone: Llet your pint-sized farmers have the Milk Income Loss Contract and let farms with more than 200 cows purchase insurance.

"One size fits all is really hard."

Meanwhile, Ohio farmers are anxiously awaiting a resolution.

Mel Borton is a volunteer with the Ohio Farmers Union. He says without government involvement in the dairy industry, small farms would have little chance of surviving.

"We didn’t think we would ever have megafarms, but megafarms have arrived."

And if the Farm Bill must be a bill for all sizes, he’ll take that — over nothing.

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