Senate Okays MILC Extension

WASHINGTON March 29 - The Senate has approved legislation that would pave the way for a full extension in the 2007 Farm Bill of the MILC program, the safety net that helps dairy farmers ride out downturns in milk prices. The Senate-passed bill also includes nearly $4 billion in farm disaster relief, which would help farmers nationwide recover from emergencies they faced last year.

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WASHINGTON March 29 - The Senate has approved legislation that would pave the way for a full extension in the 2007 Farm Bill of the MILC program, the safety net that helps dairy farmers ride out downturns in milk prices. The Senate-passed bill also includes nearly $4 billion in farm disaster relief, which would help farmers nationwide recover from emergencies they faced last year. In Vermont, the aid would especially help dairy producers hit hard by flooding. The measure includes $95 million specially set aside to help dairy farmers in Vermont and across the country. The provisions are included in a supplemental appropriations bill that includes funds for operations in Iraq and Afghanistan, the first timetable the Senate has passed for withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq, further Katrina-related relief, aid for refugees in Darfur and other trouble spots, and other mid-year appropriations adjustments. The MILC (Milk Income Loss Contract) provision provides a 10-year baseline that lays the groundwork for reauthorizing the in this year's Farm Bill. A counterpart House bill also includes a provision that would extend the program for 13 months. Senator Patrick Leahy is a senior member of the Appropriations Committee, which wrote the Senate bill, and he will be a conferee as the bill now goes to House-Senate conference. Leahy said he will continue to work with Sen. Bernie Sanders and Rep. Peter Welch in steering the extension provisions through the remaining steps in the legislative process. Leahy, Sanders and Welch also are working together to build a coalition of support for extending and improving the MILC program in this year's Farm Bill. Leahy said, "The MILC program is a vital safety net, and Vermont's dairy farmers need to be able to continue to count on it. This is an essential first step toward that goal." Sanders said, "Dairy farmers in Vermont and across the country are hurting with inadequate prices. The MILC language in this bill will give us the opportunity to create a strong dairy language in the upcoming Farm Bill."Welch said, "Senators Leahy and Sanders and I are committed to fighting to helping provide our Vermont farmers with a fair milk price they deserve. I am encouraged the Democratic House and Senate have acted on to extend the MILC program and provide the assistance our farmers need."Leahy also said the disaster aid - which was blocked for much of the past year by the previous Republican-controlled Congress, and which was backed by Leahy, Sanders and Welch - is still needed by Vermont's farmers and that this may be the last chance to enact it.