January 15, 2018
Covered by: KCRG
WASHINGTON (Gray DC) -- Will Congress consider more help for milk farmers?
Wisconsin's federal officials are hoping that happens, but some are soured on help for the dairy industry.
Data from the Wisconsin Department of Agriculture shows the state lost about 500 dairy farms in 2017, a trend over the last decade. However, milk production has not dropped off.
Jaime Castaneda, senior vice president of the National Milk Producers Association, said, "Dairy farmers do not have a viable safety net."
Castaneda said a federal program, which is supposed to subsidize milk farmers when prices drop too low, doesn't work well enough.
He said, "Certainly, corn and soybean farmers have more protection."
Thursday, Senator Tammy Baldwin (D-WI) sent a letter to Senate leadership, saying "...Dairy farmers are facing yet another year of low prices and uncertain markets."
It's similar to a letter sent by three Wisconsin Republican congressmen [Mike Gallagher, Sean Duffy, and Jim Sensenbrenner] last November, and urges even faster reform to milk farmers' safety net.
Baldwin said, "I know the dairy sector is struggling, not just with issues of price."
While Wisconsin officials are calling for more dairy farm help by strengthening the existing subsidy program, some here on Capitol Hill say the subsidies should go away.
Darren Bakst, an agriculture policy expert with the conservative Heritage Foundation said, "We continue to see legislators seeking to get special handouts for special interests."
Bakst said the dairy industry doesn't actually need help, arguing the industry is twisting the data to make the market look sour.