The top lawmakers on the Congressional Agriculture Committees are prepared with a plan to avert the dairy cliff, NBC News has learned. This is an agreement between Democrats and Republicans who run those committees and oversee the massive FARM bill that affects the entire food industry and 16 million agriculture related jobs.
NBC has learned that this FARM offer -- which will be discussed during President Barack Obama's meeting with House and Senate leaders from both parties on the broader fiscal cliff -- would likely get the most attention as a "keep-milk-affordable" proposal.
Without action by Congress, dairy prices would begin to soar to an estimated $8 dollars per gallon beginning in January. The pricing would revert to 1940s farm policy, when milk costs were tied to a more labor intensive production. Dairy is the first of many food sectors that would be affected based on their respective seasons.
This bipartisan proposal would extend the terms of the most recent FARM Act, which expired Sept. 30. The length of the extension is still to be determined, though an extension for less than one year is preferred. Senate Agriculture Committee Chairman Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., said she intends to keep fighting for a full 5-year extension, but believes a short term solution is needed now.
The FARM bill passed the Senate but House GOP leaders have refused to bring it the floor for a vote. There are deep partisan divides over parts of the bill like farm subsidy reforms that would reduce what are known as "direct payments" to farmers.
Lawmakers behind this idea in both House and the Senate hope to include the FARM extension in any fiscal cliff deal should one materialize