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Lack of farm bill could mean dairy price hikes

WESTBY, WI (WKBT) - Wisconsin's dairy industry is holding its breath while Congress battles over the Farm Bill.

The bill offers farmers dairy subsidies that are set to expire in January. Without them, milk prices will skyrocket, possibly to $7 a carton. For students at Westby Elementary School, that could mean forgoing their afternoon milk break.

"I love milk because it's so delicious," says 7-year-old Caleb Messer. What would he do without his milk break? "I would just go to the principal's office and say, 'We need milk. I'm thirsty.'"

He's not alone - kids from pre-kindergarten class to fifth grade get the milk break, provided that their parents pay for the benefit. According to food service director John Parkyn, about 95 percent of them do.

"They love it, they get out of class, they come down, they jump in the line... it's a pretty good time [for them]," Parkyn said.

About a third of children participating in the milk break also qualify for free or reduced lunch - and those are the kids who would be hurt worse by a hike in milk prices.

"We'd probably have less families taking [milk break] as an option," he said.

Milk isn't the only concern in the dairy state. Local creameries said if a farm bill isn't passed, cheese prices would double - hurting both the creamery and its customers.


Al Dekkum, owner of Nordic Creamery in Westby, said he's sick of the political gridlock that's affecting his industry.

"Us little guys are still out her,e and we are concerned over some of the stuff they're doing out in Washington," he said.

Dekkum doesn't expect prices to rise anytime soon - he believes a farm bill should be passed sometime in January, before the hikes set in.

The House of Representatives and the Senate have passed different versions that are entirely different. They have until the end of next week to pass a farm bill before they adjourn.

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