Dairy farmer talks farm bill decision

APPLETON — Area farmers say they're a bit befuddled by Congress. Instead of hammering out a new farm bill like they're supposed to do every four years, Congress decided to keep the status quo until the end of the federal budget year -- September 30th.

For Appleton dairy farmer Mark Petersen planning is an integral part of his business.  So it's tough to make a long-term plan when the current farm bill is only set to last another nine months.

"If you're looking down the road to borrow money or expand or do any kind of projects it's kind of nice to know if that safety net is going to continue to be there for us," said Petersen.

For now the safety net is there, at least for some farmers. Congress extended the 2008 farm bill through the end of September 2013. That avoided the so-called dairy cliff, which could have skyrocketed milk prices.

Many necessary crop preservation and agribusiness programs were also protected, but not everyone's happy.

"Some of the concerns they have are some of the specialty crop programs were not extended," said Randy Tenpas is the agriculture faculty chair for Fox Valley Technical College. He told FOX 11 those specialty crop programs include businesses like organic farms.

Tenpas said there are a lot of concerns like that, which need to be met this year, because the business is changing all the time.

"I think the more important aspect would be whether or not Congress can settle on a five-year farm bill in September 2013," said Tenpas.

"I think the farming community as well as the taxpayers deserve some results instead of them just spinning their wheels not getting anything done," said Petersen.

Petersen also told us he thinks part of the problem is the complexity of the farm bill that goes beyond payouts to farmers, but also includes consumer programs like food stamps.

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