MADISON, Wis. - After a summer of paying more for feed and dealing with drought, dairy farmers around Wisconsin will be hit again.
Congress could not come to an agreement on the so-called "farm bill," and as a result, the law expired Monday. As a result, certain programs under the law came to a halt, and that could have a significant immediate affect on dairy farmers relying on federal help.
Pat O'Brien runs Stoner Prairie Dairy Farm and is always looking for good money for his milk. However, he said he'd rather see that money coming from customers than the government.
"We want to be paid a fair price, but we don't want to be standing in line for a check from the government," O'Brien said.
At the same time, O'Brien said he wants to see Congress working more cooperatively to make things happen.
"It's really frustrating that the Legislature can't get together and come up with a farm bill," O'Brien said. "It's long overdue."
U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack agrees, saying he's frustrated with the way Congress isn't coming together on a decision.
"Congress has got to get this done. There's no excuse for them not to get it done. I think the reason they didn't is because they just didn't want to have a conversation with folks about how deep they want to cut," Vilsack said.
Vilsack spent Monday afternoon touring the Catholic Multicultural Center, where he unveiled plans for more specialty crop programs and investments. Vilsack had to admit that even those grants expired with the old farm bill, along with the Milk Income Loss Contract.
"I wish I could come and say, 'Hey guys, I've got a lot of help for you.' But I can't do that. But I can tell them I understand how they feel, and that we're doing everything we can," Vilsack said.
What farmers feel could be seen in prices at grocery stores. Vilsack said if the bill is kept off of the table and Congress does not decide, the regulations revert to what they were in 1949. He said milk costs could skyrocket if that happens.
"The grocery stores will just, it will be just unbelievable," Vilsack said.
"There's going to be nobody able to afford the milk, buy the milk and dairy products in the store," O'Brien added.
Some predictions say milk prices could eventually exceed $6 per gallon.
Vilsack is scheduled to visit the World Dairy Expo in Madison on Tuesday morning.
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