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Monday, October 3rd, 2005 -- 2:39 PM

The Wisconsin Farm Bureau and the Wisconsin Farmers Union have both lobbied for the continuation of the so-called MILC program, a safety net that pays farmers when the price of milk drops below a trigger level. The program expired on Friday.

Tom Thieding of the Wisconsin Farm Bureau says his group is still optimistic that the program will be extended, but says blaming Wisconsin congressional Republicans could doom the program.

"If you have other regions of the country that don't like dairy policy and they see members of your own state taking jabs at each other's party, they'll say, 'why should we support it?'," Thieding says. "We still have time, we still need to work together. Let's just simmer down."

The WFB backed President Bush in the last election. While campaigning here, Bush pledged to work with Congress to extend the program. Thieding said he?s not sure they?d consider it a ?broken promise? should the safety net be lost.

"Broken promises and failed attempts are two different things. We'll make that call (when the time comes)," Thieding said.

Wisconsin Farmer?s Union President Sue Beitlich issued a scathing press release last Friday saying the Republican Leadership ?walked away from the promises made to Wisconsin farmers?. Beitlich says they?re still optimistic the program can be salvaged, but not as optimistic as they?d like to be.

"We've known it was coming since 2002, we've had plenty of time to work on it, but here it is expired," Beitlich laments. "It's extremely frustrating."

Beitlich denies her group is "playing politics" on the issue.

"We just called a spade a spade," Beitlich says. "What do you do? You need to ask Congress. We've done that and we're disappointed they didn't come through."

Farmers are currently enjoying good milk prices, but Beitlich says the future?s market indicates the safety net could be needed again this winter.

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