If the current farm bill expires without a replacement, it could mean a much larger bill at the grocery store. Producers would face 35 billion dollars in cuts, and products like milk would be affected. Sales would revert back to a law passed i the Truman administration.
The average price for a gallon of milk in 2012 was about three fifty. The 1949 Act means the government would have to buy back milk at twice the price, kicking the cost of milk for consumers to more than double what it is now.
Jay Yates of the Texas A&M Agrilife Extension Service says that could mean "eight to nine dollars a gallon for milk at the grocery store ... The '49 bill deals with things in a much different way than the current legislation. We've gotten used to things like marketing loans."
Jerry Slominski, Vice President of Legislative Affairs and Economic Policy at International Dairy Goods Association says "there are many food products that include milk as well so you would see kind of a ripple impact across other consumer categories if the price of dairy products increased."
Slominski and Yates agree that holding off on the farm bill decision, regardless of what they do, will only hurt producers and consumers alike. Slominski says "it would really hurt the dairy industry. It would temporarily hurt dairy farmers. But if you think about it if you increased the price of milk significantly, milk consumption would go down because consumers would buy less."
There are multiple options concerning the farm bill if congress fails to decide what to do as it's expiration date years. The first option would be to pass a second one year extension to the existing bill created in 2008. Yates says "if they pass a one year extension of the farm bill, it will basically just mean status quo. Things will go forward like they are."
Another option would be to allow the bill to expire ... forcing milk prices to fall back on that 1949 Act. The third option, favored by Lubbock Congressman Randy Neugebauer, is a new five year farm bill. But with the fiscal cliff dominating the debate in Washington, there may not be the political will to take on a farm bill in time.