Next Item on Agenda to Freak Out About: Milk Prices Could Double

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Your may still be trying to calm down after news spread of a looming “unavoidable bacon shortage” (which isn’t really going to happen). But don’t get too comfortable. Now we’re supposed to panic about the possibility of milk prices doubling in the near future.

This time, the theoretical skyrocketing of milk prices is being used as an argument to get Congress to renew the Farm Bill. Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) said recently that if the bill doesn’t pass, milk prices “will not just go up 10 cents or even a dollar but actually double,” topping $6 per gallon in New York and other places around the country. For Schumer, this battle to keep milk prices down is personal:

“My favorite food is cold cereal so I use a lot of milk. Love milk and I love cold cereal and the shame of it all is it’s avoidable. There is no need for this to happen,” Schumer told reporters including 1010 WINS’ Glenn Schuck.

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Schumer also supports state legislation that would allow New York farmers to increase milk production so that they can “ride the Greek yogurt wave.” Production of Greek yogurt, which has soared in popularity among consumers, requires three times as much milk as normal yogurt. In August, when announcing support for new tax incentives to help out New York dairy farmers, Schumer said:

“The bottom line is that in order to meet the growing demand for their product as a result of this welcome Greek yogurt boom, our dairy farmers will need a helping hand to expand their herds in a timely and cost-effective way.”

But back to the Farm Bill. According to Radio Iowa, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said last week that failure to renew the Farm Bill “might result in higher milk costs”:

“The fact that livestock producers are not in a position to provide or obtain disaster assistance may result in them being forced to liquidate their herds sooner than they would otherwise do so,” Vilsack explains. “Which means that in the short term consumers may see some savings, but in the long term there’ll be some shortages and food prices will go up.”

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Not long ago, experts similarly forecast a short-term decline in the price of meat as farmers liquated livestock because of rising costs of feed due to the summer’s drought. After a short-lived price decline due to an increase in supply, however, it was expected that meat prices would rise in the long run.

More recently in Wisconsin, Vilsack agreed with Schumer’s assessment that milk prices could double, topping $6 per gallon, if the Farm Bill isn’t passed this year:

“My lord, the grocery stores, it’ll just be unbelievable,” said Vilsack, who added that the long-term ramifications of such an increase would more than offset any short-term gains for dairy farmers. “So Congress has to get this done.”

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Meanwhile, in California, reports the Associated Press, hundreds of dairy farmers are close to going out of business as they “face a double whammy: exorbitant feed costs and lower milk prices.” This week, Vilsack, while arguing for the passage of the Farm Bill, told a story of a dairy farmer in the Golden State who committed suicide, reportedly because of the stress of running the business.

Brad Tuttle is a reporter at TIME. Find him on Twitter at @bradrtuttle. You can also continue the discussion on TIME’s Facebook page and on Twitter at @TIME.

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