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Spoiled Milk

Deadlines are optional, sometimes. An expiration date facing Congress is mandatory, though, and it could result in spoiled milk…or at least more expensive milk. First, some background.

Congress was supposed to agree on a new Farm Bill by the end of September. It didn’t. Members have been dealing with other crises. Some were unexpected, like the Hamas attack on Israel and Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Other significant issues are self-inflicted.

The Republican-led U.S. House of Representatives and Democratic-controlled Senate last month averted a partial shutdown of the federal government after failing to pass a new spending plan. But they only temporarily avoided that by agreeing to delay the deadline. They agreed to a 45-day extension.

The political climate is especially challenging. The House also endured its own chaos in late September when members decided to do something that they had never done before; they voted out the speaker of the house, Kevin McCarthy, a California Republican. Times are tense.

Republicans currently hold a slight majority in the House; Democrats have an even tighter grip on control in the Senate. Next year is a general election for voters. So that adds to the difficult environment and the question of whether the two major political parties want to find a compromise on something as far-reaching as the Farm Bill.

The Farm Bill, which typically covers five years, is so vast because it involves so many things. Crop insurance, farm subsidies, broadband, conservation programs and food assistance are just some of the items. That explains the cost. The Congressional Budget Office estimated that the most recent version that President Donald Trump signed in 2018 would cost $428 billion over its five years.

Here is what it included. The next one could be a 10-year deal with a cost of more than three times the 2018 version. This Fortune article breaks down how so many priorities from so many organizations and associations add up to that $1.5 trillion estimated price tag.

Now, back to the milk. If lawmakers in both chambers can work together…IF?...they could just pass an extension of the 2018 Farm Bill. That provides a bit of short-term certainty for all impacted, while Congress then looks for compromise on a new, decade-long plan. However, if that short-term agreement proves elusive, then it could mean sizeable increases in the price of milk for both the consumers and the federal government.

No updated Farm Bill would mean certain provisions regarding milk would revert to policy from about 75 years ago. And it could also push some dairy producers out of business.


American Farmland Owner Hayfields mountains


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