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(NECN: Jack Thurston - Colchester, Vt.) - "It just creates some chaos people are worried about," said Deputy Vt. Agriculture Secretary Diane Bothfeld, describing the uncertain future for the federal Farm Bill.
Bothfeld told NECN the nation will revert to a more than 50-year old system for pricing milk if Congress does not pass a new five-year Farm Bill to replace the one expiring Dec. 31. Bothfeld said under that antiquated system, three to five months into 2013, the price farmers would get for essentially forfeiting their milk to the government could be nearly twice what they make today on the open market.
Some may think farmers would welcome higher milk prices, but Bothfeld said one prime fear among members of the farming community is that a jump in prices could end up turning consumers off of dairy, by also creating spikes in the prices of things like yogurt and cheese. Some predictions are that a gallon of milk could cost $6 to $8 dollars at the grocery store if the old pricing system is not lifted with a new Farm Bill, Bothfeld said.
"That's a big jump," she noted. "It's around the high three dollars to four dollars a gallon right now. Families may make different choices. And if people aren't buying a gallon of milk, that adversely affects farmers as well."
The Farm Bill also covers federal food support for the hungry, environmental programs, and more. Rep. Peter Welch, D-Vt., told NECN he is frustrated with the Republican majority leadership in what he's called a "dysfunctional" Congress, for not advancing the Farm Bill.
"This is an indictment of Congress," Welch said. "We passed a Farm Bill in the Senate, and we did it in the House Agriculture Committee, on a bipartisan vote. It's really the one area where there tends to be continued bipartisanship in Congress. The House leadership won't put it on the floor for a vote. My view? If they put it on the floor, we'd pass it."
Welch said he believes the Farm Bill could be discussed amid the Fiscal Cliff debate, but as of right now, no vote is scheduled.