Price of milk could double if Congress doesn't provide fix for e - DC News FOX 5 DC WTTG

Price of milk could double if Congress doesn't provide fix for expiring dairy price supports

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WASHINGTON -

While all eyes fixed on the fiscal cliff, there's another deadline quickly approaching - the milk cliff.

It's part of a stalled farm bill with as much as $35 billion in cuts.

If the bill doesn't make it through congress before the end of the year, the government will be forced to buy vast quantities of milk under a Truman-era law.

That could send consumer milk prices as high as six to eight dollars a gallon because the government would be obligated to pay twice the wholesale rate under the 1949 rules.

Farmers would sell their milk to the government first, prompting a shortage in commercial supplies which would spike the price consumers pay.

"The farm bill is like this low hanging ornament on the Congressional Christmas tree that if they just embrace, they can automatically come up with 10s of billions of dollars in budget savings," says Chris Galen with the National Milk Producers Federation.

The problem is, the bill is stuck in the house and there appears to be no political will to move it forward.

Agriculture secretary Tom Vilsack says that as a precaution his department is preparing for the law to take effect.

"This is a bad outcome. Let me be very clear about this. I don't think we should want nor should we advocate for nor should Congress consider it a good outcome that Permanent Law goes into effect," said Vilsack.

The 1949 permanent law was introduced as a poison pill to scare congress into passing a farm bill.

Now it threatens to sour Americans' milk, if congress takes us over the milk cliff.

The temporary solution would be to fold an extension of the existing farm bill into the wider fiscal cliff resolution. But even that's not moving.

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