The new fiscal year for the U.S. Department of Agriculture began October 1, but this week a 30-day continuing resolution was passed after an amendment by Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT) was included to allocate $350 million in emergency dairy assistance under the budget.
The measure adopted by the conference committee specified $290 million for direct payments and $60 million for purchase of cheese. However, California Sen. Barbara Boxer placed a hold on the Fiscal Year 2010 Ag Appropriations bill, expressing concern that the emergency spending might discriminate against dairies in Western states, and requested a meeting with Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack to discuss how the emergency spending will be allocated.
Sec. Vilsack says he wants to make sure the assistance is allocated correctly. “You can use the Milk Income Loss Contract (MILC) program, but that doesn’t necessarily benefit all the dairy farmers,” Vilsack said Thursday after a meeting with members of the Congressional Dairy Farmer Caucus. “Dairy farmers in California have probably already reached their limit, so you have to look at creative ways to help them at the same time you are helping the dairy farmers across the country.”
Vilsack advocates a more long term solution to the dairy industry situation. “We have to come up with a process in dairy that shrinks the instability in the pricing. What we have now is a boom and bust cycle, what we really need is more stable pricing.”