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Mixed reaction on partial Farm Bill extension

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CNY/NNY/S. Tier: Mixed reaction on partial Farm Bill extension
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Dairy lovers can breathe a sigh of relief. The fiscal cliff agreement passed by Congress includes a partial extension of the Farm Bill, which will keep milk prices from going way up. But not everyone's in favor of this step. Sarah Blazonis has more.

UNITED STATES -- No one wants to get to the checkout counter and realize they have to pay $7 or more for their gallon of milk. That's what lawmakers said could have happened if the 2008 Farm Bill expired. While many are glad that "dairy cliff" was avoided, others in agriculture say the partial extension simply isn't good enough.

First, the good news. The recent Farm Bill Extension means the Milk Income Loss Contract Program will continue.

"Which is a safety net for farmers, especially important to the smaller dairy farmers. It will provide them some protection when milk prices get too low," said New York Farm Bureau Spokesman Steve Ammerman.

More controversial is Congress' failure to pass a new margin insurance program as part of the extension.

"Dairy farmers don't set their prices. It's a very complicated federal formula and this would just give them a little bit more of a comfort zone in order to meet those very tight profit margins," said Ammerman.

The program would have been voluntary. If the price of feed was high and milk prices were low, the insurance would kick in and reimburse farmers for the cost of feed. There would also be a market stabilization aspect to the program. It would mean farmers would be reimbursed less if they produced too much milk.

"That would've encouraged farmers to not raise their production, thus if you have a lower supply in controlling it, eventually the price for that product would go up," said Bruce Krupke, Executive Vice President for the Northeast Dairy Foods Association, Inc.

Those against the move say that would be bad news for consumers and the many New York dairy product plants that depend on milk, but dairy farmers aren't the only ones affected. Some are worried about how other measures left out of the bill could affect farming's future.

"More targeted programs for young farmers and ranchers, for conservation programs, they did not get extended, so it's a very anti-reform bill," said dairy farmer Kathie Arnold with Twin Oaks Farms in Truxton.

A spokesman for the Farm Bureau says other programs not passed include one that would provide disaster relief to farmers.

The extension is good for nine months or until lawmakers pass a complete Farm Bill.

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