Listen To The Story


Steve Chiotakis: A $23 billion agriculture bill could soon be on its way to President Obama's desk. Negotiators from the House and Senate have agreed to reconcile different versions of the bill -- including a bailout for dairy farmers. Reporter Joel Rose has more.

Joel Rose: The $350 million in emergency funding is supposed to help dairy farmers who are getting squeezed by high costs and low prices.

Doug DiMento: Right now, milk prices are far below the cost of producing the milk. So the more milk a farmer is producing each month, the more money he's losing.

Doug DiMento is a spokesman for Agri-Mark, a co-op that includes farmers from New England and New York. There had been some tension between big dairy farms in the west and smaller producers in the east and mid-west.

The compromise announced yesterday includes $290 million in direct aid, which favors small farmers. The bill also allocates $60 million to buy up surplus cheese, which should help all farmers by raising milk prices.

DiMento says the money is a welcome relief, but it won't solve the industry's problems.

DiMento: These are just short-term fixes, just short-term band-aids. It's gonna take a long-term look at dairy policy -- and really, the whole food policy here in the U.S.

DiMenton says the U.S. Department of Agriculture, which sets milk prices, needs to find a way of avoiding the boom and bust cycle of recent years.

I'm Joel Rose for Marketplace.