Wis. cheese prices hinge on new farm bill

Wis. cheese prices hinge on new farm bill

Wis. cheese prices hinge on new farm bill

The Cedar Grove Cheese Company has been making cheese for 135 years. The family-owned business ships a variety of Wisconsin cheeses all across the country.

As the business’ owners watch the negotiations in Washington, D.C., to hammer out a new farm bill, there is the knowledge of what it would mean if no agreement can be reached. A congressional conference committee is trying to negotiate a bill that both the Senate and House of Representatives can agree on.

Earlier this year, the Senate passed a version of the farm bill by a vote of 66 to 27. The Senate version would slash $10 billion in spending over a 10 year period. The Republican controlled House of Representatives is seeking $38 billion in cuts over the same period.

At issue are cuts to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program.

Congress is scheduled to go home for the holidays on Friday, and if no agreement can be reached, the farm bill will expire at the end of the year. If that happens the nation’s dairy policy will revert to one created in the 1940s, which would result in milk prices doubling.

Cedar Grove Cheese Company currently uses 160,000 pounds of milk a day to make its cheese products. A doubling of the price of milk would result in cheese prices likely following suit.

“Presumably the price of milk could go very high and the price of cheese could go very high,” Bob Wills, owner of Cedar Grove Cheese, said. “People would stop buying as much, which would be a significant disruption for an industry that is not only trying to make cheese available for everybody but is also exporting a lot of product to the rest of the world.”

Wills believes Congress will act to get a deal done because failing to do so would have a significant impact on farmers, dairy product producers and consumers.