U.S. Sen. Bob Casey, D-Pa., chairman of the Joint Economic Committee, called for the House on Friday to pass a farm bill before Tuesday.
If it isn't passed, the U.S. Department of Agriculture will be forced to revert back to a 1940s-era milk policy that could push prices up to between $6 and $8 per gallon in 2013, Casey said.
According to the U.S. Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition & Forestry, Congress passes legislation, commonly called the "farm bill," every five years. It sets national agriculture, nutrition, conservation and forestry policy. The last farm bill was passed in 2008 and expires this year.
"Without action on a farm bill, the U.S. will be forced back to outdated, Depression-era laws that will require the government to waste taxpayer dollars, increase prices on consumers and likely throw milk away," Casey said in a statement.
Under the old policy, the U.S. Department of Agriculture would be legally required to spend between $12 billion and $15 billion buying up milk. That would lead to a substantial increase in the price for consumers and a potential decrease in demand, which would then harm producers.
Additionally, the federal government would be in possession of large reserves of milk that could end up being thrown away.
Gary Long, president of the Blair County Farm Bureau, said if the bill isn't passed, farmers would be paid about $38 per hundredweight of milk instead of between $15 and $19 per hundredweight, as they are now.
He said that would actually be bad news for local dairy farmers.
"Although it sounds like a great thing, we can buy milk overseas cheaper, [and] that is where it will come from. Local milk will be unaffordable for the general public. It will be cheaper to import the milk. You have to move your product; that is the issue," Long said. "On the dairy side, we will drown in our own product."
Dave Myers, owner of Dave Myers Farm between Summerhill, Wilmore and New Germany in Cambria County, doesn't believe the price of milk will get as high as Long suggested.
"I am concerned, but it won't happen. I will bet my farm on it," Myers said.
The Pennsylvania Farm Bureau said the bill is long overdue.
"Ideally, we would like to see Congress pass a five-year Farm Bill; however, this doesn't appear likely because of the limited time left in session. We encourage the House, Senate and the president to work together to prevent the fiscal cliff and hope that a one-year extension of the Farm Bill is included in the fiscal cliff legislation," Kristina L. Watson, farm bureau regulatory reform director, wrote in an email. "While not ideal, passing a one-year extension of the Farm Bill will avoid the possibility that the 1949 law would impact agriculture in 2013."