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Dairy Cliff Looms Again; Families and Farmers May Pay the Price

SPRINGFIELD, Mo. -- It may soon be okay to cry over spilled milk. It costs nearly $5 a gallon. The so-called dairy cliff could push prices higher if Congress doesn't come up with a way to pass the Farm Bill.
SPRINGFIELD, Mo. -- The so-called dairy cliff could push prices higher if Congress doesn't come up with a way to pass the Farm Bill.

We've already been to the edge of the cliff once, at the end of 2012. That's when lawmakers put an extension on the 2008 Farm Bill, but it runs out at the end of September.

Now the big debate is over food stamp funding. But within the same bill are reforms of dairy laws. Without a compromise, it could be consumers and farmers who pay the price.

Nearly 600 children a day eat at the Boys and Girls Clubs in Springfield.

"When the kids get here from school each day, they are starving," says Randy Carpenter, Director of Operations.

Milk is on the menu 365 days a year.

"We rely on milk to be a major part of our food evening meal program for the kids after school."

Carpenter says milk helps the kids avoid sweet drinks and more.

"Without the milk, the kids wouldn't be getting the proper nutrients they need."

The Boys and Girls Club works with Highland Dairy for a better price, but still, "it is a large portion of our cost," adds Carpenter. He says if milk goes up to $6 a gallon, "we would really have to consider trying to find some other support. It will also hurt our bottom line."

It could potentially take away from other things the club pays for, like Internet service, so kids can do homework research, athletic programs and fuel for buses. 

Dairy farmers in the Ozarks are caught in the middle, between Congress and the consumer.

"The dairy producers, we do not price the milk we produce," says David Gunter.

The price is set by the Chicago Board of Trade. While farmers and consumers wait to see how Congress acts, Carpenter says children may pay the price.

"I see another problem with milk going up and that is the families that we serve, the large majority of the families are very low income families, and if milk continues to go up, I can see our families cutting way back on that consumption. So the kids at home and weekends, they're going to be getting less and less of that nutrient they need."

When back in session, Congress will have just nine days to address this issue. Some are suggesting Congress simply use another extension because they don't feel the food stamp funding issue can be addressed in such a short time.
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