WASHINGTON – A long-delayed farm bill unveiled Monday includes a new program for dairy farmers that would provide owners of smaller herds with lower insurance premiums than owners of mega dairies.
A tug-of-war between congressional lawmakers who represent smaller dairy farms in the Northeast and Upper Midwest and their counterparts in Western states, where dairy herds number in the thousands, became a final sticking point in negotiating legislation to reauthorize agriculture and nutrition programs for five years.
Small dairies would pay "drastically lower premium rates'' than larger dairy farms, Sen. Patrick Leahy of Vermont, a senior Democrat on the Senate Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry Committee, said today.
Leahy unsuccessfully proposed a $1 million cap on payments to individual dairies and retention of a market stabilization program in the Senate-passed bill. House Speaker John Boehner said earlier this month that the program would worsen a "Soviet-style dairy program."
The farm bill, on track to win approval in the House on Wednesday and to come up in the Senate next week, would reduce the future growth of food stamps by $8 billion by setting more stringent standards for the "heat and eat'' program that enhances food-stamp benefits for New Yorkers also getting benefits from the Low Income Heating Assistance Program.
The bill also would keep a wool trust fund that domestic clothing manufacturers such as Rochester-based Hickey Freeman depend on to remain competitive, according to Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y. He said it would make sure that Hickey Freeman's business making upscale men's suits "will remain solvent and have adequate resources.''
A wide range of federal programs are included in the bill, including funding for local farmers' markets, rural development initiatives for expanding broadband, and land conservation programs.