Tricounty News

Agriculturalists taking the heat - Fiscal Cliff becoming the Dairy Cliff

We’ve all heard in the news about the “Fiscal Cliff” that is implicating the economy. But people don’t realize that the fiscal cliff dilemma is detracting from the farm bill getting passed. Right now, the farm bill is expired; if this bill doesn’t get passed, our unstable economy will face an increase in food prices that we cannot afford.
The farm bill was originally initiated in 1933 to keep food prices affordable in the United States and preserved farmland through conservation. In addition, it created various different programs in areas of nutrition, conservation, livestock, commodities, and research.

According to farm journalist Nate Birt from Ag Web, the Senate extended the farm bill for nine months as part of the fiscal cliff deal last Tuesday. By extending the farm bill, Congress is just putting off a problem that needed to be addressed in 2008 when the farm bill expired, a problem that will hurt the pocketbooks of U.S. consumers.  Mary Kay Thatcher from the American Farm Bureau Federation explained that when a farm bill expires, it goes back to the permanent law written in  1949, which forces the government to buy milk from farmers at double the cost, thus causing an increase in milk prices and dairy products for consumers. Furthermore, Congress’s inability to pass the farm bill would not only cause the price of milk and other commodities such as wheat to be affected, but would also hurt humanitarian efforts. Steve Baragona from the Voice of America website explains in his article that renewable energy programs, food stamps, conservation programs and food aid programs will all suffer from the expired farm bill. The nutrition programs that make up a majority of the farm bill will also have spending cuts that could lead to the removal of the food aid programs for the poor.  

However, some believe the farm bill will pass before the price of food increases. Jim Dickrell, editor of Dairy Today explained that the increase in milk prices could happen but is very unlikely. He states that in order for the milk prices to double, “The USDA must write contracts and solicit bids for dairy commodities from processors; that in it of itself could take several weeks.” 

Nevertheless, if the prices of food were to increase, many people will be forced to change their spending habits. Food is a necessity for all humans and if we are unable to afford it, it will become a difficult and uncomfortable way to live. Farmers and consumers alike will have to undergo the negative effects of the expired farm bill. Jim Dickrell concludes, “Let’s hope that congress acts [on the farm bill].”   Jim isn’t the only one hoping for Congress to act.