The "fiscal cliff" is not the only "cliff" averted in Congress'
last-minute negotiations: The so-called "milk cliff" was also avoided -
for now. As part of the "fiscal cliff" deal, Congress passed a temporary
extension of several agriculture subsidies, including one that would
avoid a drastic spike in milk prices.
was unable to pass an extension of the farm bill before the end of the
year, milk prices were expected to rise to $7 or $8 a gallon in the new
year because the milk subsidy program would revert back to an antiquated
formula that was implemented in 1949. But a provision written by
"fiscal cliff" negotiator Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky.,
was added to the "fiscal cliff" bill and Congress passed a nine-month
extension of the current subsidy program, which will keep milk prices
While the fix takes care of the most immediate
concern to most Americans - milk prices - it also extends $5 billion
worth of government subsidies for commodities such as corn and soybeans,
regardless of whether farmers grow crops. While farmers covet the
expensive subsidy, critics decry it as wasteful, misdirected government
Other programs, however, were cut, including conservation, organic growing, and fruit and vegetable programs.
Agriculture Committee chairman Sen. Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., praised
the last-minute extension of the dairy program, but said she was
disappointed in the contents of the rest of the bill. "I am deeply
concerned that Republican Leader Mitch McConnell insisted on including
an incomplete Farm Bill extension that ends funding for important parts
of the bill," she wrote in a statement. "Senator McConnell insisted on a
partial extension that reforms nothing, provides no deficit reduction,
and hurts many areas of our agriculture economy"
interest groups lambasted the bill. "The deal is blatantly
anti-reform," the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition wrote in an
abrasive statement. "The message is unmistakable - direct commodity
subsidies, despite high market prices, are sacrosanct, while the rest of
agriculture and the rest of rural America can simply drop dead.
Senate passed a farm bill extension in June and but the House never
voted on it or its own version, leading to the version passed last
night. Congress will now have until the next fiscal year, which begins
Oct. 1, to pass a more typical five-year extension.