High cost and not enough reform prevented a new federal farm bill from being renewed after the last one expired, according to some conservative lawmakers. Speaker of the House John Boehner said the issue would be revisited after the election, but worry is mounting that if a new farm bill isn’t presented in time for the Fiscal Cliff, cost of dairy, to name just one thing, could double.
U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack cautioned that Americans could see stark changes come 2013.
“When you consider what rural America does: It provides most of the food, a lot of the water, almost all of the energy and fuel as well as many, many jobs connected to what happens in rural areas,” Vilsack told CNN Chief Political Correspondent Candy Crowley.
Consumers, for example, could see a sharp increase in the price of milk — almost double current prices — if Congress doesn’t act by January 1, when the dairy subsidy expires, or shortly thereafter, Vilsack said.
The reason: If a new bill isn’t passed or the most recent one extended, the formula for calculating the price the government pays for dairy products defaults back to a 1949 statute. Under that formula, the government would be forced to buy milk at twice today’s price — driving up the cost for everyone, according to some economists.
With cuts coming, Windblow peach farmer Danny Bynum said he is uncertain about the future, but hopes the agricultural economy is as successful as 2012’s.
“I was concerned about the price of milk because I drink about a gallon a day,” said Bynum. “Farmers did have a good year. I hope the next one is as good as it was.”
North Carolina Agricultural Commissioner Steve Troxler said Dec. 4 that all we can do now is just continue to push for new farm legislation.
“I wish I could say that I anticipated something happening in the next 30 days, but they are focused on the fiscal cliff right now,” said Troxler. “Everyone in the Ag committee is asking if they are going to do anything about a farm bill before they adjourn, and if they don’t, they are kind of creating a fiscal cliff for the Ag world.”
Henry Antos, Ellerbe farm owner and owner of Henry’s Uptown Cafe downtown Rockingham, said he isn’t too worried about the implications the fiscal cliff might have on him. He said subsidies on farms caused his father to close down his dairy operation in the ’60s when costs climbed too high. Even the potential cost doubling of milk doesn’t shake him.
“The cost would double for a period of time then even out like everything else,” said Antos. “We don’t use a lot of milk (at the restaurant) so we buy it in small quantities. I think we’ll be OK.”
— Staff Writer Dawn M. Kurry can be reached at 910-997-3111, ext. 15, or by email at email@example.com.