At this time a year ago congress passed a one-year extension of the Farm Bill mainly to avoid a dramatic hike in milk prices. Congress failed to pass a new five-year Farm Bill in 2013, but U.S. Ag Secretary Tom Vilsack has assured congress there won’t be an immediate spike in dairy prices in January — as it will take several weeks for his agency to draft the rules that would put 1949-era dairy prices in place.
“But it’s not an indefinite amount of time and it’s not a long period of time,” Vilsack says.
Negotiators in congress hope to pass a new five-year Farm Bill when the U.S. House and Senate reconvene in mid-January.
“I feel like a groom at the altar, waiting for the bride to come down the aisle — always hopeful, but I have yet to see her,” Vilsack says. “…I think Rural America has been quite patient with congress and I suspect that people are very tired and frustrated at the uncertainty that’s occurred, but hopefully we are very close.”
If that January deadline isn’t met, however, Vilsack warns his agency will start enforcing the dairy program devised in 1949, as all subsequent Farm Bills have been a temporary, five-year updates of that original 1949 law.
“When it becomes quite obvious that there is no agreement, then it is our responsibility under the law to institute those programs,” Vilsack says.
If congress fails to pass a new Farm Bill in January — or at least a temporary extension of the 2008 Farm Bill — milk prices could rise to $7 a gallon.