DENVER (CBS4) – Lawmakers on Capitol Hill are trying to trim the budget, and that means millions of Americans will be trimming theirs. If there’s no compromise on the Farm Bill, Americans could end up paying much more at the supermarket.
It’s called the Farm Bill, but it doesn’t just impact farmers, it has far-reaching ramifications. The price of milk, for example, could double if an agreement isn’t reached.
The current Farm Bill expires Jan. 1, and milk price supports that have been in place for decades will expire, causing some to call it the “Dairy Cliff.” But the impact goes well beyond milk.
It’s been a tough year for farmer Dave Petrocco.
“We lost quite a few crops this year,” Petrocco said.
Petrocco is a third generation Colorado farmer. He lost a quarter of his vegetables to hail and flooding this year. The disastrous weather was made worse by dysfunction in Washington where lawmakers have been unable to pass a Farm Bill for a year.
The bill, passed every five years, sets policy on everything from farm subsidies and food stamps, to conservation and forestry. It runs about $100 billion a year with about 80 percent of that going to food stamps — and that is where the impasse is.
Senate Democrats have proposed cutting $4 billion in food stamps, but House Republicans want $40 billion. Each chamber passed its own farm bill, and Tuesday, for the first time, a committee of lawmakers from both chambers, including Colorado Sen. Michael Bennet, met to iron out differences.
“Look what our farmers been through; three years of drought and then this terrible flooding,” Bennet said. “The least they could do is have Washington, D.C. knock off politics and actually do our work and provide for them the certainty that would come with a five-year farm bill. And for once I’m actually optimistic that we’re going to be able to do that.”
Bennet says the two sides have found agreement on big reforms like ending direct payments to farmers regardless of need. Still, Colorado corn farmer Glen Fritzler says without a bill in place farmers can’t make planting decisions, which could lead to food shortages.
“The uncertainty is the biggest thing right now,” Fritzler said. “We just don’t know what to do.”
He says the bill is really more about the consumer than the farmer.
“It is to help moderate food prices to keep food prices affordable for all Americans,” Fritzler said.
Congress has already extended the bill once. But Bennet thinks this time it will be folded into the budget negotiations and will get passed before it expires and milk costs $6 a gallon.