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Overdue Farm Bill Makes Planning Tough for WI Farmers

December 10, 2007

Chippewa Falls, WI – It has been a long time coming, but there's now a deal to start debate by the full U.S. Senate on the Farm Bill. That has some Wisconsin farmers breathing a sigh of relief. Sue Beitlich, president of the Wisconsin Farmers Union, says farmers are making planting and financial plans for next season, and it's tough to do that when federal policy is still up in the air.

"Bankers like to know what this is about, of course; that's a factor. And farmers need to know how they'll plant, and what programs are in place."

Beitlich says, while there's a lot to like in the current proposal, some key changes are needed. Getting rid of direct subsidy payments would be at the top of her list.

"Eliminate the direct payments, and then that money would go into conservation programs, nutrition programs, rural development programs, and some money toward energy, renewable energy."

She says the current proposal contains a few important ideas that would help Wisconsin farmers: permanent disaster relief, country of origin labeling for food, and a plan that would help market Wisconsin-produced meat in other states.

Beitlich notes that farm-grown energy is front-and-center this week, not only in the farm bill, but in the energy bill before the U.S. Senate.

"We can find ways that we can grow energy crops and get the infrastructure in place so we have more alternative fuels for people to choose from."

She says support for energy crops would help Wisconsin farmers as well as consumers.

Rob Ferrett/Craig Eicher, Public News Service - WI