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Dairy farmers welcome farm bill’s overhaul

MILWAUKEE — Farmers expressed relief this week that a long fight over federal dairy subsidies had ended with an overhaul that most thought would be fair and effective in keeping farms from going under during hard times.

Along with funding for food stamps, the overhaul was a key stumbling block that prevented passage last year of a new, five-year farm bill. The House approved compromise legislation Wednesday, and a Senate vote is expected soon.

The dairy fight largely centered on a provision that sought to limit milk production when there was excess. Some dairy farmers said they needed a way to balance supply and demand so they could get a reasonable price for milk and stay in business.

But opponents — including U.S. House Speaker John Boehner — said it worked against a free market. Wisconsin cheesemakers, the Greek yogurt industry in New York and other dairy processors said the provision would hamper their ability to get the milk they need to grow their businesses.