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The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald


Appropriations include Wisconsin funding

The U.S. Senate passed a bill Thursday which will give more than $100 billion in federal funding to agricultural research, management and conservation projects throughout the nation.

The 2006 Agriculture Appropriations Bill provides financial support for several agricultural programs in the U.S. Department of Agriculture, up 18 percent from the $85.1 billion used for agricultural funding in 2005.

Sen. Herb Kohl, D-Wis., a member of the Senate Agriculture Appropriations subcommittee, lobbied for the increase in funding for the nation's agricultural programs.


"This funding illustrates the wide array of worthwhile projects we have at home and I'm pleased to work to see they get federal backing," Kohl said in a release.

The projects receiving funding under the bill are research, conservation, dairy-related and extension initiatives, 24 of which are directly targeted to Wisconsin-based agricultural programs.

However, a federal program that has paid out nearly $414 million to dairy farmers since its inception in 2002 was removed from the bill.

The Milk Income Loss Contract Program (MILC), which is set to expire at the end of the month, was included in President George W. Bush's 2006 budget, but was cut by the senate earlier this year.

MILC compensates milk producers when domestic milk prices fall below a certain price, or target level.

Bill Bruins, president of the Wisconsin Farm Bureau, said the MILC program is important for farmers, especially those in the state, considering Wisconsin farmers have received more money under the provisions of MILC than any other state.

If the MILC program is not renewed, dairy farmers may have to resort to borrowing against their equity to make ends meet, Bruins said.

"You end up playing this game where you're losing money but you have to keep spending," Bruins said. "You can't put your cows on hold just because the price of milk is low."

Though the MILC program was not included in the bill, Bruins said he has talked with several of the state's congressional delegates who are optimistic the program can be fit into other agricultural legislation.

"What we were hearing was that just because we weren't hearing it in the Ag Appropriations Bill, that doesn't mean we aren't going to get it at all," Bruins said.

In addition to the setback to the MILC program, Brent McCown, director of the Center for Integrated Agricultural Systems in the UW College of Agricultural and Life Sciences, said the bill has other cons.

McCown said the Ag Appropriations Bill has "a lot of built-in biases" that put certain farmers at an advantage at the expense of others. For example, McCown said under this kind of bill, small farms in Wisconsin would not receive as much funding as large farms in states further west.

"A farmer will get more money the larger the farm is," McCown said. "This forces small farms to expand — Wisconsin is losing on that one, and California is winning."

Also, McCown said, producers of certain farm goods, like fresh fruit and vegetables, lose out to the producers of large commodities, like cotton, corn and soybeans, in the provisions of the bill.

However, McCown said, the UW College of Agricultural and Life Sciences will benefit greatly from the increase in agricultural research funding.

"[The] UW Ag School receives more funding than any other Ag school in the U.S.," McCown said. "We are really competitive, so anything that gives more money to ag research will be good for the school."

Wisconsin research projects, which include nutrient management, dairy forage, water quality and food systems research, will be provided with over $105 million in funding for the next year.

A program whose mission is to lessen the damage from wild beavers in Wisconsin will be granted $248,000.

The University of Wisconsin Babcock Institute will receive $580,000 as part of $7 million that will be provided to dairy-related programs, which will also include over $2 million for an animal identification tracking program.

In addition, more than $18 million has been provided to fight Johne's Disease, a contagious bacterial disorder that dramatically reduces milk production in infected herds. In the past, Wisconsin received over $1.35 million for this research.

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