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Local farmers support new Agricultural Act

It was several years in the making, yet little was known about it. The Agricultural Act of 2014 created a 10-year spending plan for farmers around the nation.

The bill calls for $965 billion in spending over the next 10 years, yet it took three years for Congress to come up with a compromise instead of passing it with usual extensions. But what kind of effect will it have on the dinner plate? Or even for local farmers in the Stateline Area?

Ann Marie Cain, manager of the Winnebago-Boone Farm Bureau said they were supportive of the bill, which President Barack Obama signed into law last week.

“It will help local farmers, and provides a number of risk management tools,” Cain said. “We were very pleased to see it pass.”

She added that the farm bureau encouraged farmers to write and call into their representatives to vote for the bill prior to its passage in the House and Senate. Cain said the crop insurance was a “key component.” The bill expanded the insurance and added about $5.7 billion in funding over the next 10 years.

“With the weather you just don’t know what is going to happen,” she said. “There is also livestock disaster assistance that this bill re-authorizes and strengthens.”

In addition to the expanded insurance, the bill also ended guaranteed direct payments to farmers, which had been done for over 80 years. The expanded crop insurance will help mitigate the potential loss some farmers might feel from ending those payments.

Cain also said the bill makes some changes to the dairy policy in the county, part of which allows the U.S. Department of Agriculture to buy up retail dairy products to prevent an over-supply.

“It does continue to support small businesses as well as beginning farmers and rangers,” Cain said.

In terms of the affect on consumers, the bill does cut food stamp funding by about $8 billion over the next decade. U.S. Rep. Mark Pocan, D-Madison, voted against the farm bill due to the drastic cuts in the food stamp program.

“While this Farm Bill was an improvement from the bill brought to the House floor last year, it still favored the interests of big agribusiness at the expense of Wisconsinites struggling to get by,” Pocan said in a statement shortly after the bill passed the House at the end of January. “I could not in good conscious vote for the more than $8 billion in cuts to SNAP that will make it harder for 860,000 Wisconsinites to put food on the table.”

It also changes some labeling rules on meat. Labels will now carry where the animal was born, slaughtered and processed. U.S. Sen. Tammy Baldwin, D-Madison, voted in favor of the bill, and said it would help Wisconsin farmers continue their family business.

“Our strong agricultural tradition is a driver of economic growth and the Farm Bill is an opportunity to boost our agriculture economy, which puts over 350,000 people in Wisconsin to work,” Baldwin said in a statement last week. “This compromise isn’t perfect, but it is bipartisan legislation that makes important investments in our rural communities and will help ensure that our agriculture sector continues to fuel our state’s economy.”