Editorial: Week ahead could be crucial for farm bill

Could it be in a few weeks that the price of a gallon of gas looks like a bargain when compared to the cost of a gallon of milk?

That could be the case unless Congress can reach an agreement soon on a new farm bill that seems to have been held up in negotiations forever now. Leading negotiations in the Senate is Sen. Debbie Stabenow of Michigan.

Without a new farm bill, come January pricing regarding milk would revert to a policy enacted in 1949. At that time, government was paying milk producers a much higher price for the commodity. While opinions vary as to what that actually would mean for consumers today, some have suggested $7 for a gallon of milk might be the new norm.

As might be expected, lawmakers cringe at such a suggestion.

While it is the price of milk that has moved the farm bill front and center in discussions today, the real cause for legislative inaction has been disagreement over farm subsidies and food stamp requirements.

While Stabenow has said numerous times in interviews over the years that as chairwoman of the Senate Agriculture Committee she has been blessed with being able to work closely with her GOP counterparts, this year the farm bill’s negotiations have tested not only her’s, but all of our’s resolve.

This coming week could be insightful as to where the farm bill is headed. House Republicans have set Dec. 13 as the deadline for consideration of any bill this year. Either a bill will be ready by then or the House might approve a temporary extension of the current bill – thus keeping milk prices at current levels.

Coupled with the farm bill is the Jan. 15 government shutdown facing Congress unless a new budget bill is in place. The last thing anyone wants right now is more frustration from inaction with either bill.

And, neither does Congress want to give milk producers a new advertising campaign from the ever popular “got milk?” to this one instead, “afford milk?”