Dairy dilemma: Potential milk crisis ahead with delayed action on farm bill
by The Anniston Star Editorial Board
Dec 24, 2012 | 3712 views |  0 comments | 9 9 recommendations | email to a friend | print
If Congress fails to pass a new farm bill by the end of the year, or at least extend certain provisions, milk-pricing rules will revert back to those outlined in a 1949 law causing milk prices to double. Photo: Dinesh Ramde/The Associated Press
If Congress fails to pass a new farm bill by the end of the year, or at least extend certain provisions, milk-pricing rules will revert back to those outlined in a 1949 law causing milk prices to double. Photo: Dinesh Ramde/The Associated Press
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We drink milk, cook with milk and pour milk on breakfast cereal. Choosing white or chocolate, we drink it often. At Christmastime, some people use it to make egg nog. Babies and young children need it. Adults need it for healthy bones.

Some people even use it to make milk-and-cornbread, a particular Southern treat.

We wonder what will happen to our cravings for milk if the United States falls off the “milk cliff,” as some dairy-industry insiders are calling it.

This isn’t to make light of the so-called fiscal cliff that awaits U.S. taxpayers if the Republican-led Congress doesn’t come to an agreement with President Obama on the nation’s fiscal crisis. But another crisis — the “milk cliff” — is poised to cause significant distress to the millions of Americans who enjoy this staple of most healthy diets.

The problem exists because the U.S. House’s version of a new farm bill hasn’t made it to the floor, even though the U.S. Senate’s version passed in July. With Congress breaking for the holidays and overwhelmed with the fiscal cliff negotiations, hardly a word has been spoken about the fact that, on Jan. 1, farm bill-less federal government will revert to using a 1949 version of the farm bill.

When that happens, the government, according to The New York Times, “would be forced to buy milk at wildly inflated prices” — twice the current market — to keep milk prices stable.

On dairy farms, that means farmers would see a quick spike in their profits and then, as demand wanes, a steep reduction in sales.

At the grocery, that means consumers would pay more for milk. Today, the national average for a gallon of milk is $3.65. Agriculture experts told The Times that would balloon to $6 to $8 a gallon if a new farm bill isn’t passed.

The obvious result is painful, nonetheless. “It would be bad for consumer demand in the long run,” Chris Galen, a spokesman for the National Milk Producers Federation, told The Times.

In America’s fiscal-cliff scenario, a preponderance of American taxpayers will see their taxes increase if Washington’s highly partisan leaders don’t reach a compromise agreement.

In America’s milk-cliff scenario, all Americans will pay more for a gallon of milk — and dairy farmers will ultimately suffer — if Washington’s highly partisan leaders don’t pass a farm bill by the end of the year, which seems extremely unlikely.

Think about that the next time you’re paying for your groceries.
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