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Wisconsin Farmers Union to host series of rural coffee chats

(AP GraphicsBank)
Published: Dec. 23, 2020 at 7:07 AM CST
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EAU CLAIRE, Wis. (WEAU) - The $900 billion covid-19 relief bill approved Monday by Congress contains $13 billion for American farmers and ranchers. That includes funding for dairy farmers and processors, local and regional food systems, mental health services for agricultural professionals, worker protection, rural broadband and meat-processing infrastructure. The dairy portion of the bill provides $400 million for a new Dairy Donation Program to reimburse companies for the milk purchases and processing costs of donated dairy products. Another dairy measure makes small- and medium-sized dairy farms eligible to sign up for supplemental payments under the Dairy Margin Coverage program based on the difference between the farms’ 2019 actual production and the DMC production history.

There will be $60 million in grants to small-scale meat processors to help them qualify for federal inspections so they may sell meat across state lines. Another $100 million is being allocated for the Specialty Crop Block Grant program, which is designed to assist fruit, vegetable and nut processers, along with $100 million to the Local Agricultural Market Program to assist producers selling into local markets. Twenty-eight million dollars was earmarked for rural mental health programs administered by state departments of agriculture. The bill also provides a 15 percent increase in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program and more funding for food banks and hunger programs. Wisconsin’s Republican contingent in the House of Representatives and Wisconsin Republican U.S. Sen. Ron Johnson voted against the relief legislation; the state’s Democratic contingent and Democratic Sen. Tammy Baldwin voted in favor of it. The legislation was approved 92-6 in the Senate and 359-53 in the House. It awaits the signature of President Trump, who has threatened to veto the bill.

A series of rural winter coffee chats have been scheduled for Wednesday mornings in January by the Wisconsin Farmers Union. The chats will be held virtually at 10:30 a.m. Dates and topics include Introduction to Wisconsin Farmers Union, Jan. 13; winter reading recommendations, Jan. 20; and Wisconsin Farmers Union history, Jan. 27. Registration information for the chats is available at wisconsinfarmersunion.com/events.

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