Agriculture Committee leaders meet with Vilsack

By Sarah Gonzalez

© Copyright Agri-Pulse Communications, Inc.



WASHINGTON, Nov. 29, 2012- Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack met with the four principals of the House and Senate Agriculture Committees today, boosting optimism for passage of a five-year farm bill instead of an extension of current policy within the next month. However, the meeting was one of a regularly scheduled get-to-gether that Vilsack has tried to arrange with committee leaders. 

After leaving USDA, Senate Agriculture Committee Ranking Member Pat Roberts, R-Kan., said, “There is still a concerted effort to get a five year farm bill."

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The top Republicans and Democrats of the Agriculture Committees met Thursday afternoon after some dueling press conferences on Capitol Hill between House and Senate leaders regarding “fiscal cliff” negotiations.

Earlier this week, House Agriculture Committee Chairman Frank Lucas, R-Okla., said the fate of the farm bill relies on a deal between the White House and House Republicans to compromise on spending reductions and increased revenue before the end of the year. 

The dairy sector is in particular need of action on a farm bill, since the Milk Income Loss Contract Program (MILC) expired on Sept. 30, leaving producers without a safety net. 

In response to today's meeting between Vilsack and the Agriculture Committee leaders, International Dairy Foods Association (IDFA) Vice President Jerry Slominski said he'd rather see an extension of the current farm bill or the repeal of the 1949 Act instead of a five-year bill passed without an amendment to eliminate government limits on milk production. 

“If it chooses to resolve the issue by passing a new farm bill, the House of Representatives can and should accept the bipartisan, compromise Goodlatte-Scott amendment that removes the controversial new government program to limit milk supplies from the dairy title of the bill while retaining an effective safety-net for dairy farmers,” Slominski said. 

However, the five-year farm bills passed through the House Agriculture Committee and the Senate include dairy programs similar to one sponsored by House Agriculture Committee Ranking Member Collin Peterson, D-Minn. The program eliminates MILC and focuses on margin protection that includes government limits on production, but only if dairy producers choose to participate.

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