WI farmers hang in the balance during farm bill uncertainty - WKOW 27: Madison, WI Breaking News, Weather and Sports

WI farmers hang in the balance during farm bill uncertainty


MADISON (WKOW) -- Wisconsin farmers once again hang in the balance as Congress debates a new farm bill. Lawmakers have until January 1 to strike a deal. leaders of the House and Senate agriculture committees met Wednesday but it's too soon to tell is that meeting will lead to an agreement. It's something local farmers have heard before.

"What happens, happens. We were at this situation a year ago," Sassy Cow Creamery owner James Baerwolf tells 27 News.

A year ago, Congress couldn't meet in the middle to pass a new farm bill. The point of contention was not agriculture, but cuts to the nation's food stamp program, SNAP.

"The Senate has passed a version much earlier this year, as has the House, and conferees are meeting right now to try to resolve the differences," U.S. Sen. Tammy Baldwin said Thursday.

Experts say if those differences aren't hashed out by the new year, we'll once again face going over the so-called 'dairy cliff'. Milk prices could spike as we revert back to depression era subsidy dairy policy.

The Wisconsin Farm Bureau doesn't think it'll come to that but a spokesman says it'll be problematic for farmers going into the planting season, not knowing if their crops will be covered by insurance.

"The new farm bill has some very innovative and new risk management tools for farmers and that's one of the reasons its so essential we pass it," Baldwin says.

Evansville-area dairy farmer Mike Larson says his biggest concern is new supply/management provisions in the versions of the bill. He says the language could give the government control over how much milk farmers across the country are allowed to ship, and limit Wisconsin farmers.

"If things are different then we may have to adjust," Baerwolf says. Back at Sassy Cow, he's hoping not to get caught up in the uncertainty."We should have a farm bill passed, yes, just because why postponing and postponing just getting something done and moving forward I think most people want to see."

Baldwin says there have been encouraging signs since Wednesday's meeting on the bill but House Speaker John Boehner is pushing for a farm bill extension until differences in the food stamp cuts are worked out.

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