WASHINGTON, D.C. (WSAW) -- After stalling in Congress for several months, legislators have finished negotiations on the 2018 Farm Bill and are ready to put their agreements in writing.
Democrat Senator Tammy Baldwin talked to NewsChannel 7 on Wednesday about what the new bill will look like--and the specific improvements that would especially benefit Wisconsin dairy farmers.
"What we've seen in Wisconsin, over 500 dairy farms went out of businesses last year, and we're on a pace to surpass 600 this year," Baldwin said. "We can say that our dairy farmers are in crisis, and this bill can't pass soon enough in my opinion to provide new tools for them."
Specifically, Baldwin explained she pushed hard to improve the Margin Protection Program, which helps farmers with risk management. The United States Department of Agriculture describes it as protection for dairy producers "when the difference between the all milk price and the average feed cost (the margin) falls below a certain dollar amount selected by the producer," per the USDA website. The voluntary program offers catastrophic coverage and various levels of buy-up coverage, as well as an online interactive tool to help farmers determine how much coverage they will need.
Some of those improvements mean small- and mid-size farmers can expect to see their insurance premiums drop under the new bill, Baldwin said. Additionally, the program will include higher margin, which she says will make the MPP stronger for those who choose to use the tool.
An issue that caused early concern about passage for the Farm Bill were provisions for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits included in the House version of the bill. Baldwin says that negotiators "did a good job" sticking to the Senate version of the bill, which did not include those provisions which would have cut coverage for some.
Baldwin believes the bill will see strong bi-partisan passage in both houses. Currently, while negotiations are complete, the agreements still need to be put in writing.
The Farm Bill is a program that has to be reauthorized every five years, and supports farm and nutrition programs that millions across the country depend on. It helps govern agriculture, conservation, rural development and nutritional assistance.
Congress is expected to vote on it soon, as they are expected to adjourn by Dec. 21.