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Merry Christmas. We Have a Farm Bill!
Wisconsin Ag Connection - 12/21/2018

The Agriculture Improvement Act of 2018 is now the law of the land. President Trump signed the five-year, $867 billion Farm Bill in Washington, D.C. on Thursday, which most of Wisconsin's agricultural groups praised.

FarmFirst Dairy Cooperative President John Rettler said it was the first time since 1990 that Congress has passed a new farm bill in the same year it was introduced.

"Members of Congress heard our concerns for dairy farmers and they listened by including several of the reforms we sought," Rettler said. "Passage of the 2018 Farm Bill provides a bit of certainty during these challenging times for dairy farmers."

Specifically, the dairy sector likes the new risk management program, known as the Dairy Margin Coverage, which provides greater flexibility in coverage options for producers. Rettler says in the old program, dairy farms producing five million pounds or less could only protect a margin between $4 and $8. Now that protected margin can be $9.50 at a cost of just 15-cents.

The farm package also includes several incentives like a 25-percent reduction in premiums for those who sign up for the same margin protection and percentage of milk covered for the next five years. And it reauthorizes the Dairy Forward Pricing Program, which allow proprietary plants that offer forward pricing to not pay minimum Federal Order prices for farmers' pooled milk.

The American Dairy Coalition, which is also based in Wisconsin, said in a statement that the bill doesn't solve all the financial woes of the industry, but it is another tool for farmers to use as they produce nutritious, safe, affordable dairy products for consumers throughout the world.

Meanwhile, U.S. Senator Tammy Baldwin said she's proud that her provision to combat fraudulent organic imports that unfairly undercut American farmers was added to the measure. She says Wisconsin is home to more than 1,200 organic farms, and they are a strong driver of the state's rural economy.

"Our farmers work extremely hard to make sure their products meet the strict requirements of USDA organic standards, and we must make sure that all organic products sold in the U.S. meet those same rigorous standards," Baldwin said. "This reform will level the playing field for American farmers and make sure that American consumers get the high quality, organic food products they expect. I look forward to seeing the President sign this important legislation into law."

Other provisions include strengthening promotion of U.S. agricultural exports and other trade initiatives; helps rural communities by improving broadband delivery; requires the USDA to establish regionally located dairy innovation centers to assist dairy farmers with diversifying their products; and legalizes and provides crop insurance for industrial hemp.

And for those who are suffering from mental stress because of low prices, the farm bill reauthorizes the Farm and Ranch Stress Assistance Network, which will make mental health treatment more available for farmers who suffer from higher rates of depression and suicide.

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