“Growing up on a dairy farm, you certainly learn discipline and a commitment to purpose.”
That was said by Mike Johanns, who is a Republican United States senator from Nebraska.
Johanns, despite his self-described discipline and commitment to purpose, just couldn’t take it anymore. All the bitter partisan politics he encountered among his Senate colleagues factored into his decision to announce in February that he won’t be seeking election next year.
At the time, he was the fifth senator to say “enough” to the dysfunction and rancor of what used to be a much more collegial group of legislators. What made Johanns’ decision stand out is that dairy farmers tend to be very tough people with a huge capacity for patience and hard work.
They have to be.
With the current wrangling in Congress over passing a farm bill, things could get much tougher for dairy farmers in our area and around the country.
If a bill isn’t made law by the end of the legislative session on Dec. 13, the price of a gallon of milk could rise to nearly $7 a gallon, according to experts.
And who do we think will catch most of the blame? Well, if the past is prologue, it will be the dairy farmers, who have far, far less control of what a gallon of milk costs than many people might think.
A farm bill is supposed to set national agricultural policy, including milk pricing and nutritional programs. Without a new one, the Department of Agriculture could return milk pricing to a formula from the 1940s that could cause retail prices to double from their current average price of about $3.50 a gallon.
“It would pull the rug out from under (dairy farmers) by drastically disrupting the market,” said New York state Farm Bureau spokesman Steve Ammerman. It could flood the market with cheaper imports and affect this country’s exports, he said.
So, what’s holding up a solution in the hallowed and — more recently — harrowing halls of Congress?
Politics, of course. Included in the bill must be funding for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, formerly known as food stamps.
The Republican-majority House of Representatives has passed a bill that would cut $4 billion from the SNAP program on the heels of a recent reduction because of the expiration of the 2009 Recovery Act’s temporary rise in funding.
The Democratic Party-controlled Senate and President Barack Obama want to cut about a 10th as much as the House does.
Meanwhile, dairy farmers in our area and around the country are stuck in a familiar place.
Stuck in the middle with not a lot of say in what their future will be.