Democrats drop milk tax

Democrats drop milk tax

An overhaul of farm and nutirtion programs anticipated.

Senate Democrats have dropped a proposed tax on milk in hopes of winning passage of an overhaul of farm and nutrition programs. Dairy farmers would instead get new subsidies directly from the government.

In addition to altering the dairy program, which would pay farmers $2 billion over five years, Democrats are also offering more money for conservation.

Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle, D-S.D., said he wants to have the legislation on President Bush’s desk by the end of the year. The Republican– controlled House passed a different version earlier this fall.

Dairy processors withdrew their opposition to the Senate bill after the Democrats agreed to drop a proposed fee on milk that would have raised retail prices at least 10 percent. The fee was intended to fund the new $2 billion subsidy program.

The White House has said it strongly opposes the Senate legislation but stopped short of threatening a veto. A Republican alternative, sponsored by Sen. Pat Roberts of Kansas and Thad Cochran of Mississippi, gives farmers more money in fixed annual payments rather than crop subsidies. It also allows for subsidized savings accounts similar to those provided under Canada’s farm assistance program.

Representatives from the International Dairy Foods Association (IDFA) and leading consumer groups had joined two senators on Capitol Hill last month to address growing concerns over dairy provisions in the Senate farm bill legislation.

Senators Mike Crapo, R-Idaho, and Jeff Bingaman, D-N.M., hosted a news conference Dec. 4 and introduced an amendment to strike the controversial national dairy plan from the farm bill. IDFA Senior Group Vice President Connie Tipton was among the speakers at the forum that rallied against the dairy provisions, which are championed by Senator Patrick Leahy, D-Vt.

“Out in America, the headlines are about job layoffs, bankrupt corporations and empty shelves at food banks. But here in Congress, a few politicians in the Northeast are pushing a complicated new law that a government study says will raise the price of milk by 26 cents a gallon,” said Tipton. “In the real world, dairy farmers and milk companies are working hard together to build demand for milk. But on Capitol Hill, a few are pushing legislation that could quickly unravel all of that by making milk less affordable.”

Copyright Stagnito Publishing Jan 2002

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