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Farmers Urged To Consider New Safety Net Program

Auditor Doug Hoffer says it's hard to tell which Agriculture Agency programs are most effective at cutting phosphorus pollution from farms.
Jane Lindholm
VPR File
The state says changes made to a federal safety net program should make it more beneficial to small and medium-sized dairy farms.

A June 1 deadline is nearing for dairy farmers to sign up for a safety net insurance program that could help as milk prices remain low.

Diane Bothfeld, director of administrative services and dairy policy for the state Agency of Agriculture, says recent changes spearheaded by Sen. Patrick Leahy should help make the program more attractive for small and medium sized farms.

“They adjusted the premium rates lower, so farmers could buy better insurance at a lower rate,” she said.

The margin protection program acts as an insurance policy and is triggered when margins between milk prices and average feed costs are low.

Bothfeld said another key change is that the programs benefits are now calculated monthly, instead of every two months. She said this revision should better reflect the reality of fluctuating feed costs and other factors that affect farm income.

“Many times, when that calculation was done putting two months together, it resulted in no payments to farmers, when one of the individual months would have resulted in a payment,” she said.

Farmers have to sign up by June 1. And Bothfeld says they need to do so through their local federal Farm Services Agency office.

“There is some paperwork to do and some numbers to check etc so [we’re] hoping farmers won't wait until June 1 to go in," she said. "That they go in this week and next week to get signed up and get the paperwork completed."

The Vermont Legislature also set aside $450,000 to help farmers pay for the premiums.

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