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'Dairy cliff' could cause price of milk to double in new year

By Ryan Hughes, Reporter, RHughes@wfmz.com
Published On: Dec 28 2012 04:57:56 PM CST

With the fiscal cliff looming, the price of dairy has not been a hot topic, but the so-called "dairy cliff" could cause milk prices to skyrocket in 2013.

JEFFERSON TWP., Pa. -

With the fiscal cliff looming, the price of dairy has not been a hot topic, but the so-called "dairy cliff" could cause milk prices to skyrocket in 2013.

At less than $4 a gallon, right now shoppers are milking it for all it's worth. Come January 1, shoppers in Berks County could not imagine paying $6 to $8 for a gallon of milk.

"I can't, but I'm going to have to because I still have to eat cereal," said Stewart Kaucher, who picked up a gallon of milk on Friday.

"I can't imagine, never, that's too much," said Marilyn Guidici, who buys milk for her family.

Milk does a body good, but Jean Stafford said not at double the price.

"We're senior citizens, and I don't intend to pay that much," said Stafford, who had two gallons in her cart in the grocery store.

All the attention has been surrounding the fiscal cliff, leaving the farm bill waiting in the wings. The current bill sets agricultural and other food policy, but it expired last summer. A dairy subsidy expires Jan. 1. If Congress cannot reach an agreement, the government will revert to a 1949 statute, meaning it will have to buy milk at double the current price.

"In the long run, people would drink less milk, eat less cheese or buy less yogurt, so there'd be less of a demand for our products," said William Lesher, owner of Way-har Farms in Jefferson Township.

Lesher didn't think the spike in price would ever happen, but if it did, he said it would take too much time to get things realigned.

"I think something like this would totally throw the dairy industry in a tail spin," said Lesher.

The clock is ticking, and now farmers and consumers are hoping for a last-minute deal.