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Key Farm Bill Proposals for WI Are “On the Fence”

January 22, 2008

Madison, WI – As the U.S. Senate gets back to work this week, it's crunch time for the U.S. Farm Bill. A number of key proposals contained in the bill are on the fence between the two houses of Congress.

Jeanne Merrill, with the Michael Fields Agricultural Institute, says Wisconsin's farmers should watch closely as the two versions of the Farm Bill are pulled together, because some items important to the state's agricultural community were passed in one house but not the other. Merrill places funding for the Conservation Stewardship Program at the top of the list. She says it's an opportunity to reward farmers who work to improve Wisconsin's natural resources.

"The Conservation Stewardship Program provides financial rewards for farmers who do good things for our environment. Farms can protect waterways and provide clean air and wildlife habitat. It’s an important program for the environment."

She adds other important items in limbo include assistance for beginning farmers and organic farming research, and a grant program that helps farmers process raw materials into more profitable finished products. All would have been easy to fund, Merrill believes, if Congress had tackled commodity subsidy payment reform, which would have freed up a lot of farm funding.

"Unfortunately, both the Senate and the House failed to reform commodity payments, which means that hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of dollars will continue to go mega-farms. And that will hurt family farmers and rural communities."

Farms that receive those subsidies say they help keep consumer prices down.

Rob Ferrett/Craig Eicher, Public News Service - WI