“Dairy Cliff” Will Likely Be Avoided

The Slatest
Your News Companion by Ben Mathis-Lilley
Dec. 30 2012 4:21 PM

“Dairy Cliff” Will Likely Be Avoided for Now After Lawmakers Reach Compromise

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Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack warned that if lawmakers failed to reach a deal, consumers "are going to be a bit shocked when instead of seeing $3.60 for milk, they see $7 a gallon for milk"

Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images

As fiscal cliff negotiations appear to be going nowhere, at least it seems that Americans will avoid the so-called dairy cliff that could have led to a doubling of milk prices next month to $7 a gallon or more. Top leaders in the House and Senate agriculture committees have agreed to a one-year extension of a farm bill that expired in October. Senate Agriculture Committee Chairman Debbie Stabenow said the House could vote on it as early as Sunday night, reports the Associated Press. Three bills related to the dairy cliff were filed in the house late Saturday that together “testify most to the continued tension between the GOP’s top brass and [House Speaker John] Boehner’s old haunt: the House Agriculture Committee,” notes Politico.

Each of the three bills would in some way prevent the spike in dairy prices that would be caused by the failure to pass a new five-year farm law when the one enacted in 2008 expired. Without a new plan, all agriculture program “automatically return to rules passed in 1949,” points out Bloomberg. A new law has languished as the Senate and House have been unable to come to an agreement on food stamps and crop subsidies, reports Reuters. By extending the old law, it is likely that there will be a new round of cash-payment subsidies to already profitable growers that both sides of the aisle had agreed to eliminate. But that may be avoided if a new five-year bill is enacted before the payments actually go out in October, points out Politico.  

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“It is not perfectno compromise ever is,” House Agriculture Committee Chairman Frank Lucas said in a statement Sunday. “But it is my sincere hope that it will pass the House and Senate and be signed by the President by January 1.”

Daniel Politi has been contributing to Slate since 2004 and wrote the "Today's Papers" column from 2006 to 2009. You can follow him on Twitter @dpoliti.