Heading for the dairy cliff...again

By Matt Porter

December 19, 2013 Updated Dec 19, 2013 at 8:57 PM EST

New Berlin, NY (WBNG Binghamton) Milk prices could reach $7 or $8 a gallon after the new year if Congress can't pass a new farm bill.

Local farmer Jim Postma considers himself a responsible farmer running a multi-million dollar and high-tech farm.

But after almost two years with no agreement on a new farm bill, he questions the responsibility of Congress.

"If I ran my business the way they run their business over there, it would be a disaster here," Postma said.

Congress is required to pass a new farm bill every five years which does everything from help set milk prices to determine food stamp benefits.

The last farm bill expired in the fall of 2012.

"It's like they don't know what they're doing over there," Postma said.

Congress has until the end of December to pass a new farm bill or an extension on the old one, otherwise milk could rise as high as $8 a gallon.

The reason for the increase is milk prices would revert to a 1949 farm law where milk is priced according to "parity." Parity means pricing milk to the actual cost it takes farmers to produce.

Today's farm laws include a form of pricing that artificially lowers the cost of milk with the help of subsidies to farmers.

President of the Chenango County Farm Bureau Bradd Vickers said temporary extensions instead of a new farm bill are dangerous in the long term.

"If they keep playing with the extension, it gives them more opportunity to cut," Vickers said. "For the average consumer, this is going to be very costly the more you procrastinate on this."

The House passed a temporary extension for the farm bill that would keep the law in effect through January.

Senate democrats say the House bill is dead on arrival, they want to pass a full farm bill to avoid another dairy cliff in the near future.

Agriculture secretary Tom Vilsack said even if the deadline passes on December 31, prices of milk will remain stable through January.

For Jim Postma, he said part of being a farmer is being hopeful about the future.

"We as farmers are always thinking, next year is going to be a better year, we always have that outlook," Postma said.

But unless Congress acts, Postma's optimism may be dashed once again.