Local Dairy Farmer Says Milk Prices Doubling, Unlikely

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LOWELL, Mich. – Renee McCauley has been a dairy farmer all her life.

Her family has lived at Nugentdale Farms in Lowell since the 1960s.

“I think we’ve had more interest in the price of milk in the last two weeks than all those years combined,” she said.

That interest comes on the heels of comments from Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack during a CNN interview that aired on Sunday. Vilsack was discussing farm legislation and the growing concern that a new farm bill wouldn’t be ready for the beginning of 2013.

“Consumers – when they go into the grocery store – are going to be a bit shocked when instead of seeing the $3.60 a gallon for milk, they see seven dollars a gallon for milk,” Vilsack said.

The farm bill, which is typically reformed every five years, expired on Sept. 30. The debate regarding the new version of the bill has pushed back the potential vote.

If a new bill isn’t passed or the previous isn’t extended, the formula for calculating government-paid prices for dairy products will default back to a statute drafted in 1949. That formula would force the government to pay double the current price for milk – driving up cost across the board.

But Renee said consumers shouldn’t be scared.

“Yes – worst-case scenario, that could happen, but in reality – is it gonna happen? No,” she said. “There’s so many other procedures in that that it would have to go through before that formula was implemented.”

America’s current financial crisis is one of the main reasons the bill has become a hot topic.

“It’s been talked about more this year because 80% of the farm bill is the food and nutrition program,” Renee said. “With our interest in controlling the debt and areas that we can really conserve, that’s a big area.”

A big area in a bill that affects everybody.

“It really does affect every consumer.It’s not just a farm bill for farmers,” Renee said. “The big reason why we appreciate the farm bill is it helps to give us some planning for the horizon and the years down the road, that kind of safety net in the market.

“We know what to expect.”

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