Milk Apocalypse Now?
Are you ready to pay 8 bucks for a gallon of milk? Over and above any tax hikes you get to embrace once we all pitch over the fiscal cliff?
Lost in the political standoff between the Obama administration and Congressional Republicans over the budget is a virtually forgotten impasse over a farm bill that covers billions of dollars in agriculture programs. Without last-minute Congressional action, the government would have to follow an antiquated 1949 farm law that would force Washington to buy milk at wildly inflated prices, creating higher prices in the dairy case. Milk now costs an average of $3.65 a gallon.
Higher prices would be based on what dairy farm production costs were in 1949, when milk production was almost all done by hand. Because of adjustments for inflation and other technical formulas, the government would be forced by law to buy milk at roughly twice the current market prices to maintain a stable milk market.
Among the fun effects this could have, while in the short term consumers pay double for dairy products, it could drive US dairy companies into buying their milk from overseas. That would kill dairy jobs here in the United States. By law, though, the US government would go on buying the milk at inflated prices, costing taxpayers more money. What a super terrific impact all of this would have on the struggling economy.
The farm bill itself, meanwhile, is packed with porkbarrel spending, as farm bills always are. So it's not like the bill ought to have an obvious path to passage. Typical of a farm bill, it's a bad bill overall and spends money that we simply do not have.
It's fair to wonder whether there are two functioning brain cells to rub together in Washington anymore.