Farmers and consumers worried about dairy cliff

REEDSVILLE — As the country teeters on the brink of the fiscal cliff, farmers here in Wisconsin are worried: There’s also the so-called dairy cliff.

Agriculture agents FOX 11 spoke with say milk prices probably won't double. But, they will most likely go up. Farmers say there's too much uncertainty to panic just yet.

Dairy farmers like Randy Geiger say working with cows takes patience. But, his patience is wearing thin for members of congress.

"If nothing happens by January first we will revert back to the 1949 act. At that point the price of milk could double,” said Geiger, who has farmed for more than 40 years in Manitowoc County.

"It’s somewhat of an antiquated system but it does ensure that milk prices are stable and the prices for commodities aren't going to be out of control,” said Aerica Bjurstrom, UW-Extension agriculture agent.

Right now, milk costs on average $3.50 a gallon in stores nationwide. Dairy farmers are guaranteed a certain price for their product.

If that agreement expires with the old farm bill on January 1st, all bets are off.

Farmers could charge much more for milk, but agriculture agents don't think a huge increase is on the way.

"If this dairy cliff did come along, it would probably only increase about $1.75 per gallon,” said Bjurstrom.

Geiger says though he'd like more profits, he's more concerned about folks still wanting to buy affordable dairy products.

"Sure, it could double my income, but I personally feel that won't be a good plan because you will then lose the confidence of the consumer. If you lose some volume in consumption you may never gain that back, and that's a serious concern,” said Geiger.

Geiger says he helped craft the new farm bill that's attached to fiscal cliff legislation.

He says it needs to be passed, so prices for both the farmer and consumer won't face five years of uncertainty.

"We feel that in the first two weeks there will be a new farm bill or the old one will be extended,” said Geiger.

Farmers say reports from Washington, D.C. change hourly on the farm bill.

Now, if the January 1st fiscal cliff deadline comes and goes, you won't notice a price change in the stores right away.

Agriculture agents expect the hike to hit dairy products in late January or early February.

Copyright 2014 WLUK TV. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

 

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According to the 2010 U.S. Census, Wisconsin’s population totaled 5,686,986, a 6.0% increase over the 2000 U.S. Census count of 5,363,715. (Source: Wisconsin Blue Book)
 
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