Dec. 12 2012 09:57 AM

Milk is in the news, but probably doesn't deserve the hype

by Lucas Sjostrom, Hoard's Dairyman Associate Editor

The biggest news of the week for "milk" is that prices might double due to the farm bill, or the lack of farm bill passage. Of course, we first heard about this a few months ago from places like CBS news. But it is re-entering the media circus with thanks to Politico – a D.C.-based paper for Capitol Hill – and other major media outlets just picking up on it now. House Ag Committee Chair Frank Lucas is quoted in the article as warning his party of the wrath of the American public if they should let milk prices double.

Sources we've talked to who are familiar with the D.C. political scene say that although the threat may loom (if the farm bill isn't passed by January 1), they doubt it would actually happen. Secretary Vilsack could use a number of measures to delay an instant implementation of a higher milk price. The easiest delay would be the time needed to rearrange a staff using the Agricultural Act of 1949's exact language for what needs to be done.

UPDATE December 15 at 2:30 p.m.:

Secretary Vilsack has since made statements leading us to believe allowing the Act of 1949's language may be a real possibility. An article in Politico mentions that Vilsack warned legislators that they "can't expect a fallback to prevent milk prices from spiking" in its first paragraph: Sources from Congress also tell us that the USDA will be ready to implement the law from 1949 if need be.

Of course, one of the biggest walls not mentioned in the popular press would be how this new/old law would violate virtually every free trade agreement in which dairy is included. Yes, milk has become a political football and there is little chance that milk prices will actually double for any significant time period.

Fluid milk reaches the stage
Beyond the huge farm bill debate, fluid milk's demise finally reached the popular press when The Wall Street Journal reported yesterday that milk needed a makeover. Of course, this is something we've struggled with as an industry for many years. The most interesting part of this story was the nature of the comments it received on Facebook. You can see for yourself at the Journal's Facebook page, About 75 percent of the comments appear to be simply anti-milk, although it could be a concerted effort by some activist groups.