The “Milk Cliff” Shock Doctrine

 The Washington Post’s editorial board wants the country to go over a cliff. No not the fiscal cliff but,  a “milk cliff”.  I guess a “milk cliff’ is to the “fiscal cliff” like Jimmy Olsen is to Superman, an important character but not the plot driver. Anyway the lesser cliff results from the stalled farm reauthorization bill deadline. The Post suggests the bill should ultimately fail so the resulting shocks will motivate Congress to change dairy support laws.  

Once over the “milk cliff” we don’t enter into an imagined free market heaven but instead would revert to following a 63 year old farm law.  

According to CNBC Higher prices would be based on what dairy farm production costs were in 1949, when milk production was almost all done by hand.

And it would force the government to buy milk at inflated prices. Dairy farmers would experience a windfall selling to Washington but as a result less milk would make it to the consumer level and higher prices would be charged for what remained available.  

The farm bill also covers food stamp benefits and anti-hunger programs. Additionally the drought and record breaking weather this summer was also expected to drive up the price of groceries, according to the government. So, to families already struggling and everyone else, there would be another blow plus the milk shock..

But this is fine with The Washington Post’s editorial board because, although going over the cliff would “harm many consumers”,  

[…] the pain might be worth it if it finally shocks the country into demanding an end to Congress’s fiddling with the milk market.[added emphasis]

I am not suggesting the farm bill isn’t a tangle but it is surprising The Post believes the resulting painful outcry might force Congress to act. Popularly supported demands for the wealthy to pay their fair share, Obama’s decisive victory, and other Democratic gains in the recent election, haven’t been enough (yet) to drive the Republican controlled House of Representative anywhere closer to sanity. However, The Editorial board believes an $8.00 a gallon milk price shock would. So with little evidenceThe Washington Post’s editorial board calculates that their prescription for “harm to many consumers” and market disruption for others is worth the risk.  

3 thoughts on “The “Milk Cliff” Shock Doctrine

  1. With milk at double the current price, most families will look for other beverages for their kids, reducing already sparse demand if/when congress acts and the price goes back down.

    Not a good scenario, for kids (calcium, protein, and vit. D), adults (particularly women who really need that vitamin D), or dairy farmers and their associated suppliers.

    Washington Post editorialists have proven time and again their disconnection from those of us out here in the real world.


    Seeing is deceiving. It’s eating that’s believing. ~ James Thurber

  2. this is settled, consumers as well as farms should be able to transact sales. I do not know the fine points if any about this debacle or how much individuals are able to purchase at the farm level but it appears farmers would then be able to cut out the middle man & consumer receives a better product.  

  3. I’d bet getting to a farm for purchases is something only a lucky minority are able to do.

    More on the cliff here from a press release about a week ago by Sen. Leahy : The Secretary[of Ag.] will have to keep spending until he is able to raise the price of fluid milk by 60 or 70 percent.  […]Taking those products off the market will drive up consumer prices- prices that struggling families must pay, from coast to coast, just to put food on the table-as early as next month.

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