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Ohio Farmers Await News on Changes to Dairy Safety Net

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This week a congressional committee is expected to come out with a compromise on the Farm Bill after months of debate. As Lewis Wallace reports from Ohio Public Radio member WYSO, legislators agree the bill should provide some kind of safety net for dairy farmers—but they’re hung up on just what that should be.

Friday, January 24, 2014 at 5:01 pm

When milk prices drop below a certain point, smaller farmers have been able to get help from the government. It’s been that way since 2002. That program is called the Milk Income Loss Contract, or MILC, for short. But MILC’s days are numbered.

Cameron Thraen, a professor of economics at Ohio State University, said the outcome of the current debate will probably be a new program that almost acts as insurance, but would be available to farms of all sizes -- even the mega-farms.

"By doing that there would be a fairly significant shift in the distribution of these benefits away from the small-scale producers towards the larger scale producers," Thraen said.

He believes there’s another way to cover everyone: Let your pint-sized farmers have the Milk Income Loss Contract, and let farms with more than 200 cows purchase insurance.

"One-size-fits-all is really hard," Thraen said.

Meanwhile, Ohio farmers are anxiously awaiting a resolution. Mel Borton, a volunteer with the Ohio Farmers Union, said without government involvement in the dairy industry, small farms would have little chance of surviving.

"We didn’t think we would ever have mega-farms," Borton said. "But mega-farms have arrived."

And if the farm bill must be a bill for all sizes, he’ll take that over nothing.

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