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Congressman wages 'uphill' battle against Boehner on dairy subsidies

Rep. Peter Welch (D-Vt.) is taking on Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) and a few in his own party on a key part of the farm bill.

In an interview with The Hill, Welch argued against an amendment sponsored by Reps. Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.) and David Scott (D-Ga.) that will be up for a vote on the House floor this week. That measure would significantly change the farm bill's dairy subsidy language, which is favored by Welch and some Republicans.

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Boehner supports the farm bill but opposes the dairy provisions cleared by the House Agriculture Committee. Last year, he described them as "Soviet-style," a remark Welch called "a little over the top."

Boehner has endorsed the approach favored by Goodlatte, which the Virginia Republican claims would "give farmers the necessary tools to manage their risk without requiring them to participate in yet another government program."

Welch strongly defends the provisions in the farm bill, noting they empower a dairy farmer "to respond to market signals when determining how much milk to produce," according to a recent op-ed he wrote.

He is not making any Joe Namath-like predictions on the vote, which is expected Wednesday or Thursday.

"It's going to be tight, and it's uphill for us," Welch said, adding that Boehner is actively seeking votes on the amendment.

"The Speaker has some tools at his disposal for persuading folks on how to vote," Welch said with a smile.

Welch's allies include Agriculture Committee Chairman Frank Lucas (R-Okla.) and ranking member Collin Peterson (D-Minn.), as well as well as Rep. David Valadao (R-Calif.), who is heading the GOP whip operation. Rep. Mike Simpson (R-Idaho), a close friend of Boehner's, is also working closely with Welch.

Should the Goodlatte-Scott amendment pass, Welch said he will push for the Senate-passed dairy policy language — which mirrors the House Agriculture Committee's — during conference on the bill.