As Farm Bill negotiations get underway in Washington, D.C., one of the pieces being closely watched is changes to dairy farming. Some farmers claim milk prices could double if a bill isn't enacted. YNN's Andrew Sorensen explains some of the issues farmers are facing and what they hope to get out of the bill.
UNITED STATES -- Dairy farms have changed a lot since the first farm bills in the 1930s.
"It has included the pricing formula for milk," explained Cassville dairy farmer Glenn Taylor.
First of all, they're bigger.
"We're milking about 200 cows here," said Taylor.
And the way farmers like Taylor make their money is now a more nuanced and complex formula.
"If the bill expires and that's not there, it reverts back to a formula set back in earlier time," he said.
There's speculation that could skyrocket milk prices on shelves.
"The price would almost double to the consumer," said Taylor.
And farmers like Taylor don't want that, because how much you buy affects how much they make.
"And that ultimately will affect consumption to some degree, so there's a great need for certainty in the industry and some factor of stabilization," he said.
That's why dairy prices are right alongside hot button issues like the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program and crop insurance as the focus of the latest Farm Bill talks in Washington. The House and Senate are trying to merge their separate versions of the bill and farmers are urging them to kill the unknown consequences of waiting.
"It will provide a sense of certainty, for the dairy industry, as far as policy for it, and it also usually provides a safety net," Taylor said.
That safety net has been pretty crucial and they can't afford to let it run out.
"When prices get really low and the prices get bad for the industry, that there's some stabilization, so that we don't get severe swings in the prices," Taylor said.
But some are looking to change the safety net
"In addition, the Farm Bill should include the Dairy Security Act," said Rep. Suzanne DelBene of Washington during the committee meeting.
They want to change government payouts to farmers and base them on profits, instead of market prices for milk. They say that will keep prices stable, but guarantee profits when grain to feed cows are high.
Patience will be key, though. The first day of talks yielded little more than introductions.
Several members in the Farm Bill talks say they expect the process to take several weeks. Others are urging them to act more quickly, as certain programs start running out of funding at the end of this week.