WASHINGTON — After what were described as intense negotiations, House and Senate conferees are accepting legislation backed by Vermont’s congressional delegation that would pave the way for a full extension and expansion of the safety net that helps dairy farmers ride out downturns in milk prices.
House and Senate Appropriations Committee negotiators late Monday approved the bill that includes the Milk Income Loss Contract (MILC) provisions.
The bill also includes more than $3 billion in farm disaster relief funds long awaited by farmers in Vermont and in other states, but which were blocked last year by Congress. The supplemental spending bill also sets aside $20 million to help dairy farmers in Vermont and across the country.
The House and Senate are expected to vote on the supplemental appropriations bill this week. Pres. George W. Bush has said he will veto the bill because it includes a timetable for withdrawal of troops from Iraq.
“As usual on dairy issues, we’re on a high-wire walk across many obstacles, and any misstep can be perilous. But for the MILC program, it’s so far, so good,” said Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-VT, a senior member of the Senate Appropriations Committee and a leading conferee on the bill.
The provision included in the final version of the bill was the Senate’s language, authored by Leahy, which provides a 10-year baseline that ensures mandatory funding for the MILC (Milk Income Loss Contract) program and would lay the groundwork for reauthorizing and expanding the program in this year’s federal Farm Bill.
The counterpart House bill also included a MILC provision that would extend the program for 13 months, though without the 10-year funding baseline.
“Farmers are hurting, and many are making plans now not just for this season but also for their future. They need to know the MILC program will continue to be there when they need it.”
Both Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-VT, and Rep. Peter Welch, D-VT, have also been working to get the provision passed, and were heartened by Monday’s agreement.
“Family dairy farmers in Vermont and across this country are up against the wall with high feed and energy costs,” said Sanders. “Getting this one-month extension of the MILC program is a critical first step in our efforts to create an effective safety net for dairy farmers.”
Welch added, “Many of Vermont’s dairy farmers are struggling to survive and all they have ever asked for is a fighting chance to succeed. This agreement sets the stage for our delegation to fight for reauthorization of the MILC program in the upcoming Farm Bill.”
In a joint statement, the delegation said this bill may be the last chance to enact the farm disaster aid, which would help Vermont farmers recover from flood losses last year.
“Last year’s floods compounded the setbacks that farmers are enduring, and it is unconscionable that last year’s Congress and the White House have stood in the way to prevent this overdue relief,” said Leahy.
MONTPELIER – Vermont’s captive insurance industry celebrated an milestone recently by licensing its 800th captive insurance company, according to state officials.
Mount Kisco Medical Group, one of New York State’s largest medical groups has become Vermont’s 800th captive insurance company, according to Len Crouse, deputy commissioner of captive insurance at the state Department of Banking, Insurance, Securities and Health Care Administration (BISHCA).
“I am proud of what we have accomplished and the quality of the companies we have licensed in Vermont,” Crouse said. “This is a great business for our state and we can all take some pride in this accomplishment.”
Vermont began licensing captive insurance companies in 1981 and began 2007 with 791 captive insurance firms after licensing 37 new captives in 2006.
Mount Kisco Medical Group was founded in 1946 and is the oldest multi-specialty physician group in New York and the largest in Westchester County.
“We examined both offshore and onshore options for a few years before choosing Vermont to domicile our risk retention group,” said Scott D. Hayworth, president and CEO for Mount Kisco Medical Group. "We are excited about our new RRG and our relationship with the great state of Vermont. The key factor in our selection of a captive domicile was the dedication the state had to the success of the captive industry.”
Captives formed in Vermont for professional liability coverage for physicians and hospital groups has been a strong growth sector for the Green Mountain State. Vermont currently has nearly 100 captives writing medical malpractice coverage with approximately $1.6 billion in gross written premium last year.
“More and more physician groups are choosing Vermont for their medical malpractice captives,” said Dan Towle, director of financial services for the state Department of Economic Development.
Vermont is the largest captive insurance domicile in the United State and the second largest in the world in terms of gross written premiums, with $11.55 billion in 2006.
Vermont is also home to 42 of the companies that make up the Fortune 100, and 19 of the companies that make up the Dow 30 have Vermont captives.
The industry generates nearly $23 million in tax revenues for Vermont, in addition to providing roughly 1,400 full- and part-time jobs, state officials claim.
“This benchmark gives Vermonters a strong sense of pride and achievement that our commitment to this industry for over twenty-five years has been heard loud and clear,” said Gov. Jim Douglas. “Rest assured that Vermont will continue to offer a stable regulatory environment, governmental officials that are accessible, and world-class professional support services to the next 800 captives as well.”
Posted April 25, 2007