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Milk prices won't jump; farm bill extended for 9 months

By Catherine Hawley, Reporter, news@wfmz.com
Published On: Jan 02 2013 06:00:00 PM CST
Updated On: Jan 04 2013 07:52:03 AM CST

The compromise to avoid the so-called Fiscal Cliff included an extension of the 2008 Farm Bill for nine more months.

The compromise to avoid the so-called fiscal cliff included an extension of the 2008 Farm Bill for nine more months. Dairy lovers are breathing a sigh of relief, but others in agriculture say the partial extension simply isn't good enough.

For William Boyd, dairy farming is in his blood.

"I've been a dairy farmer myself since 1980 and before that, I worked for my dad."

He grows mostly corn on his 700-acre farm in Upper Macungie Twp., Lehigh Co.,, but his 45 cows are the operation's life blood.

"Your own boss, but you're out here seven days a week," explained Boyd. "It's tough, but I wouldn't give it up."

This week he's breathing a sigh of relief. The fiscal cliff agreement included a one-year extension to the 2008 Farm Bill, averting a tumble off the so-called dairy cliff.

"Things will pretty much stay the way they are," shared Boyd.

The extension keeps existing programs in place like direct payments and crop insurance. It also prevents dairy subsidies from reverting back to 1949 levels, a move that could have caused milk prices to double to about $7 a gallon. The bill actually expired September 30th but most of the programs it covered weren't affected until the first of the year.

"Crop insurance is the most important part of the bill in my opinion," Boyd said.

But some farmers say the things left out of the farm bill extension will hurt them. It excludes disaster relief for and cuts funding for conservation and energy.

Now many farmers, including Boyd want lawmakers to go back to the drawing board. They were hoping a new five-year bill would pass, but they'll settle for the extension and work toward a permanent bill by the end of September.

"I hope they can make a new one," said Boyd.

The Farm Bill isn't just a concern for farmers. About 80% of the bill funds the "Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program," better known as SNAP or food stamps.