December 14, 2018 06:01 PM
President Donald Trump is soon expected to sign the new federal farm bill members of Congress approved this week.
The sweeping agriculture bill with an $867 billion price tag covers a myriad of programs from the Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program, also known as food stamps, to crop insurance for farmers.
And Minnesota farmers say the help included in the plan couldn’t be coming at a more critical time.
"I think for many farms it's a very critical time,” Fran Miron said, who is a dairy farmer. "I don't see myself doing anything else."
Miron and generations of his family have raised dairy cows on their Washington County farm for more than 130 years. It’s a passion he’s passed on to his son, Andrew.
"Whether you know it or not we are involved in every aspect of your daily life,” Andrew Miron said.
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Together, they are facing some of the most difficult economic conditions they’ve ever experienced. More dairy farms are going bankrupt. In fact, the Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis recently released an analysis which projects the number of farm bankruptcies in the Midwest to rise next year.
"There were hundreds of dairy farms in Washington County and we are in the low double digits now,” Andrew Miron said. "You have to hedge yourself when you are in the good times to make it through the bad times.”
The farm bill's passage comes too late for some dairy farmers. Over the past 15 years, the number of milk cow herds owned by farmers in Wisconsin has decreased dramatically.
Lawmakers point to a program to stabilize dairy farms as a centerpiece of this year’s farm bill. It includes a program that allows dairy farmers to buy insurance-like coverage to protect against upside-down margins — when the sale price is lower than production cost.
It’s a worry Fran Miron said keeps many of his fellow dairy farmers up at night.
"So each day that farmer wakes up in the morning and goes out to milk those cows he knows he's losing money,” he said.
The Mirons say they’ve intentionally grown slowly to remain financially sound. But for many, the farm bill will save them when hard work and discipline just aren’t enough.
"We need to be able to have more resources for people out there,” Andrew Miron said.
Additionally, with farmers under so much stress from low prices and trade wars, the bill also orders a study of the mental health of farmers and ranchers across the country and sets aside $10 million for those in crisis.
Updated: December 14, 2018 06:01 PM
Created: December 14, 2018 04:35 PM
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