Milk prices could double at start of year

Oct. 30, 2013 @ 05:12 PM

The shutdown may be over but another effect of Washington politics could hit the economy and refrigerators throughout the country.
The House of Representatives and Senate are working on an updated farm bill. If Congress does not come to an agreement, milk prices could reach $8 a gallon by Jan. 1.
High Point residents outside of Harris Teeter are not happy about the possibility of paying double for a gallon of milk.
“We may just have to stop drinking milk,” said Sheena Holloway, a High Point resident . “I cannot imagine paying $8 for one gallon of milk.”
Henry Washingon, 55, said it isn’t fair for the U.S. citizens to bear this.
“That’s ridiculous for us to have to pay that much because Congress can’t come to an agreement,” he said. “That’s not our fault but we would be the ones that have to pay.”
Amanda Bullock, 34, said the increase would really hurt her family.
“We are always on the go so we do cereal in the morning and my husband and I drink protein shakes — we use a lot of milk,” she said. “If this happens, we have to find some alternatives because I don’t think anyone can afford $8 a gallon.”
The main challenge in getting the bill done is the differences on food stamps, officially called the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP. The House has passed legislation to cut around $4 billion annually, or around 5 percent, including changes in eligibility and work requirements. The Senate has proposed a cut of around a tenth of that amount, and Senate Democrats and President Obama have strongly opposed any major changes to the program.
When the 2008 farm bill was extended for fiscal year 2013 and the 2013 crop year, there was a special provision that continued the Milk Income Loss Contract Program until Dec. 31, 2013, said Chrissy Waggett, federal liaison for the North Carolina Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services.
“This price support for the dairy industry will expire at the end of the year unless Congress passes a full five-year farm bill, extends this provision, or extends the 2008 farm bill before then,” Waggett said.
Waggett said that if nothing is done, the country will revert to 1949 permanent law which set federal price controls for certain commodities, including dairy. For dairy, the end of the current price supports means going back to permanent law when the price for dairy was set at almost four times what it is currently, which could cause prices to double.
“Since dairy will be the first commodity to revert to permanent law, this will be this most immediate impact,” she said. “However, farmers need to know the programs available to them so they can plan.
“Without a farm bill, we do not have any livestock disaster assistance and certain conservation programs have ended.  Things like specialty crop block grants and the Market Access Program are also important programs authorized by the bill,” Waggett said.

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The Associated Press contributed to this article.