Shutdown could raise the price of milk

Little noticed amid the shutdown hoopla, the Farm Bill has also expired

Topics: Farm Bill, Government shutdown, USDA, cuts, milk, Iowa, ,

October first was one hell of a day for government: the shutdown commenced and the Affordable Care Act went into effect.  Easily overlooked in this “shutdown showdown,” was the quite expiration of the Farm Bill.

According to Farm Futures, “Crop insurance and nutrition programs are effectively permanent programs and will continue without specific reauthorization.”  However, other projects depend on the renewed funding that usually happens every fifth year.  Our five years ended in 2011.  Since then a series of stripped-down extensions of the 2008 bill have been passed.

We last left the Farm Bill where we left the budget: in no-compromise-land.  In mid September, The House split the Farm Bill into two halves (farm and food), cut $40 billion from food stamps, sewed the bill back up and sent it to the Senate where it had little possibility of passing.  Where does that leave us now?

We won’t immediately feel the effects of the Farm Bill’s lapse.  Instead they’ll trickle out over the next few months.

According to Think Progress, the immediate cuts that will be felt include the Senior Farmers’ Market Nutrition Program that provides healthy produce for seniors and the Milk Income Loss Contract (MILC), which subsidizes milk production. Without it, milk prices could double by January 1, 2014. The Farm Bill expiration also affected funding for disaster relief for farmers and conservation programs.

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These effects are compounded by stagnation caused by the USDA shutdown.  According to the Washington Post, this includes the cessation of funding for the Women, Infants and Children program, which helps an estimated 9 million Americans, and gets pregnant women and new moms healthy food.

The Des Moines Register reports that programs that promote U.S. agricultural products overseas will be immediately cut.  These cuts will have an impact on Iowa’s economy, and only add insult to injury to farmers.  The lack of a solid Farm Bill has been hurting farmers for the last two years when certain programs were suspended in 2011.

Sarah Gray is an assistant editor at Salon, focusing on innovation. Follow @sarahhhgray or email sgray@salon.com.

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