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State Agriculture Officials Say Washington D.C. Trip Shows Maine Delegation Support
October 22, 2012
For more information, contact: Jeanne Curran at (207) 287-3156
AUGUSTA, Maine – State agriculture officials are calling their visit to Washington D.C. “an important step” in dealing with the issue of the expired 2008 Farm Bill and its damaging impact on several sections of the rural economy, especially Maine’s dairy farmers.
“Maine is involved in offering solutions and is partnering with interested office holders,” Commissioner Walt Whitcomb of the Maine Department of Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry (ACF) said about his visit. “We discussed with the entire Maine delegation the impact of expired programs that support research, senior citizens, organic certification and dairy. The trip showed how critical and engaged our Maine congressional delegation is.”
During the trip to the U.S. Capitol, Whitcomb met with Maine delegation staff members, U.S. Department of Agriculture officials, Senate Agricultural Committee staff, and delegation members of other states, to discuss Maine’s next options regarding the Farm Bill. The ACF commissioner said he also wanted to assure the continuing support for the Farm Bill amendment sponsored by U.S. Sens. Olympia Snowe and Kirsten Gillibrand (D-New York) and co-sponsored by U.S. Sen. Susan Collins.
The high cost of feed and fuel, coupled with the Midwest drought and a federal milk pricing system based on a speculative market system, have caused production costs to skyrocket for Maine dairy producers in recent months.
The recently expired federal Farm Bill has provided a price protection program known as the Milk Income Loss Contract (MILC) program. Despite the efforts of such federal legislators as U.S. Sen. Snowe, no action was taken on the Farm Bill before Congress left for its recess, putting in limbo a number of programs critical in Maine, including the MILC program.
The Snowe-Gillibrand Amendment was passed in the U.S. Senate version of the Farm Bill by a vote of 66-33. The amendment requires the USDA to report back to Congress the impact of the current system of federal milk marketing orders, which is now based on cheese and butter futures sold at the Chicago Mercantile Exchange.
Maine milk prices should have a local, not federal, origin, according to Maine agriculture officials.
Whitcomb said the official visit confirmed that the Snowe-Gillibrand Amendment still was supported -- not only by Maine’s delegation, which gave its unanimous approval, but also by other state delegations. It also gave the Maine officials an opportunity to express their concern over the devastating effects of milk prices on Maine and the region, he said.
While it is unknown what will happen in Congress following the November election, several options are possible in November and December.
“We went to Washington both to measure the level of support for the potential passage of the Snowe-Gillibrand Amendment, which is very strong, and to deliver the message that things are very difficult in Maine,” Commissioner Whitcomb said. “I think we were able to accomplish both goals and convey the message of urgency.”