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Urgency to pass Farm Bill moved to back burner with government shutdown

WASHINGTON D.C. (WTAQ) - The last package of federal farm programs expired Tuesday -- and the urgency to pass a new Farm Bill has taken a back seat to the government's partial shutdown.

For Wisconsin farmers, the impact could be staggered over the next few months. 

Some things are already cut off -- including the Milk Income Loss Contract program, which provides federal subsidies when milk production costs drop below certain levels. Wisconsin's family farmers have been among the top users of that program. 

Pat Westhoff of the Food and Agricultural Policy Research Institute says the end of the Farm Bill has cut off some smaller conservation and nutrition programs -- with possibly more to come. The impact could be felt at the grocery store, as some observers predict $6 milk by January. 

Those who rely on the Farm Service Agency were out of luck Tuesday, when its offices closed due to the shutdown. That agency also provides data for commodity reports which are vital to farmers and processors. 

At least some reports may not been issued until the congressional deadlock ends. 

As for the Farm Bill, Minnesota Congressman Colin Peterson says it might be the end of October before House and Senate negotiators are named to work out a final package. 

Iowa Senate Republican Charles Grassley says there's a large gap between the two parties -- but he's still confident that a new Farm Bill could come by the end of the year.

(Additional reporting by Brownfield Ag News & Minnesota News Network)