Got milk? If so, we hope you enjoy plenty of it with your holiday cookies, because when you see the higher milk prices in January, you might have a cow. According to Ron Nixon’s article in The New York Times, milk prices may rise to $6.00-$8.00 per gallon — more than double what we pay now — if congress fails to pass a new farm bill. Since the 113th congress barely even seems able to pass gas out of a paper bag, passage of a new farm bill seems highly unlikely. And — once again — America’s stubborn, cud-chewing Republican-led House of Representatives is to blame. The majority-Democrat Senate passed a new farm bill with bipartisan support back in July, but the House hasn’t managed to moo-ove their version out of committee.
Without new legislation, US farm programs automatically revert to what Nixon describes as “an antiquated 1949 farm law that would force Washington to buy milk at wildly inflated prices, creating higher prices in the dairy case.” The higher prices would reflect the higher relative costs of dairy production back in the 1940’s, when farmers milked their cows by hand.
Amanda Peterson Beadle reports for Think Progress that the trouble started when the (GOP-led) House allowed the previous farm bill — The Food, Conservation, and Energy Act of 2008 — to expire in back in September. This wide-ranging “omnibus” legislation governs billions of dollars in agricultural, alternative energy, and energy conservation subsidies, in addition to the Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program (SNAP) and other food assistance programs, which account for 80% of the 2008 farm bill’s budget (according to Wikipedia).
It is strange that conservative Republicans so strongly oppose passing a law that would renew the 2008 farm bill, considering that the 2008 farm bill extended the 2002 farm bill, both signed by former President George W. Bush. One of the few good things Bush II ever did was to revamp the inefficient and humiliating food stamps program, expand it to the working poor, and popularize it as SNAP which distributes benefits through convenient (and less stigmatizing) debit cards. This, of course, does not exonerate Bush II and his fellow Republicans from enacting the policies that have forced so many of us to rely on food stamps to begin with.
It seems unnecessarily cruel that our House of Representatives keeps promoting policies intended to make most Americans poorer, while rolling back programs and tax exemptions that give middle class and low-income people a helping hand.