Federal crop insurance and other programs are making the lack of a farm bill painless for many farmers, but there’s trouble in the dairy industry. When the farm bill expired last month, so did the milk income loss contract (MILC) program.
Devon Green, a dairy farmer in Grundy County, says that program helped cover the lag time between when corn and cattle feed prices rise but milk prices remain steady.
“Corn and soybeans have a board and a market, where dairy fluctuates very much,” Green says. “So, if corn goes to $8, milk may not be high enough to cover that yet. It takes a while for that to rebound and that lagging time is what’s of great concern.” Iowa is the nation’s 13th largest milk-producing state with more than 1,600 licensed dairy herds.
Green says the MILC program has an unintended consequence of trapping farmers who are new to the industry, like him. He says, “That part of the farm bill is a little scary for a beginning farmer, kind of putting the shackles on how we can expand, how many cows we can have, and then affecting the price of our extra milk that’s over.”
Green worries about what could happen if too much time passes without a farm bill to provide a safety net. Congress won’t take up any new legislation until at least November, but it could be as late as March before a new farm bill is discussed.
Iowa’s dairy industry contributes $1.5-billion to the state’s economy every year, while Iowa farms produce 4.3-billion pounds of milk per year.