Wisconsin News

Short-term farm bill fix puts farmers on hold

LA CROSSE, Wis. - Some farmers are stuck putting their long-term plans on hold now that the farm bill has temporarily been extended.

As part of the so-called "fiscal cliff" deal, Congress extended several agriculture subsidies. It extended part of the 2008 farm bill for nine months. The dairy portion of the farm bill got extended for a year.

Southeastern Minnesota dairy farmer Mark Clark is grateful for one thing: The quick fix averted a milk price crisis.

"A mess. It really would have been a mess," said Clark.

The extension prevented the milk subsidy program from reverting back to a formula from the 1940s, which would have caused milk prices to rise to $7 or $8 a gallon.

"It really would have been almost catastrophic to the markets," said Clark.

That's where the gratitude ends.

The short-term extension has him frustrated, to say the least.


"They didn't fix anything. They just do what they do best, they kicked it down the road for the future, you know, somebody in the future to take care of," said Clark.

For organic dairy farmers, it's a different story. They're seeing changes now, but not the kind they were hoping for.

"The extension came about without any funding for the existing organic farming program. So we're hoping that they'll at least reinstate those programs that they've already been supporting in past years that relate to organic farming, because those relate to our farmers directly," said Organic Valley outreach specialist Greg Welsh.

Clark said it's that kind of instability that makes it tough for farmers to plan for the long term. The only thing he said he can count on is more gridlock.

"It's just time that we make some of the big changes that have been proposed this year, but didn't get passed. So we'll see in a year from now if that actually happens or if they just continue to keep putting it on for other years," said Clark.

Congress has until the next fiscal year to come up with a more typical five-year extension. That gives lawmakers until Oct. 1 to make it happen.

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