Milk prices could rise if farm bill looms


Sen. Thad Cochran, R-Miss., ranking member on the Senate Agriculture Committee, looks over documents before a closed-door meeting with other Farm Bill negotiators on Capitol Hill in Washington on Wednesday.

AP
Published: Thursday, December 5, 2013 at 3:42 p.m.
Last Modified: Thursday, December 5, 2013 at 3:42 p.m.

WASHINGTON — A New Year's deadline that could send the price of milk skyward looms over congressional negotiators as they try to reach agreement on a five-year farm bill. But they've been tripped up by differences over the nation's food stamp program and how to restructure farm subsidies.

The two chambers have been far apart on both issues for more than two years. But the leaders of the House and Senate Agriculture Committees expressed optimism after a private meeting Wednesday that they may be able to find resolution in time to narrowly avert the expiration of dairy subsidies on Jan. 1. If those subsidies expire, new laws will kick in that could result in decreased dairy supply on the commercial market and higher prices for a gallon of milk.

Finding a compromise on cuts to the nation's $80 billion-a-year food stamp program has been the toughest obstacle. The House passed a bill this summer that would cut $4 billion annually and create new work requirements for some recipients. The Democratic Senate, backed by President Barack Obama, passed a farm bill with $400 million annual cut, or a tenth of the House cut.

On Thursday, House Speaker John Boehner said the bill should be extended through January while negotiators work out their differences.

Boehner said Thursday he hasn't "seen any real progress" on the farm bill. That differed from comments by House Agriculture Committee Chairman Frank Lucas, R-Okla., who said Wednesday that negotiators have made "great progress."

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