While Washington is dealing with the "fiscal cliff," there is also something called the "dairy cliff." If Congress does not renew the farm bill by the end of the year, you could be paying double, or even triple for a gallon of milk.
Those who enjoy dunking cookies in milk now have a legitimate reason for concern, unless they don't mind buying the powdered variety. That's because, without legislative action in the next few days, we could see higher dairy and milk prices, leading to utter chaos for many families.
Amanda Perez stopped by Save Mart on East Avenue in Chico to buy her weekly gallon of milk.
"It's around $3 or $4 a gallon," said Perez.
Ross Field says, "and even that is expensive right?"
"Yeah. I remember when it was like $1.99, even smaller," said Perez.
Now, the news of what many are calling the "dairy cliff" is making Perez nervous.
"I'd be pretty upset, I mean I use a lot of milk, definitely like cheese and butter for a lot of my recipes, that just cuts back everything I could do for my family," said Perez.
At issue is a complicated and very bureaucratic farm bill the comes up for renewal every five years. Bottom line, if the farm bill isn't renewed or at least extended by the end of this year, the old 1949 federal price controls for milk get replaced with pricing based on inflation.
That means, on January 1st, got milk might well as be got gold.
Right now, an average gallon of milk costs $3.60, pretty soon it could be up to $8.00 a pop.
"The way wages are, the economy and everything, it's just going to dig deeper into people's pockets," said Richard Abbot.
However, Michael Marsh, who works as a chief executive officer for Western United Dairyman, says not to worry. He is confident lawmakers will come to an agreement in time.
"We have had experience with this in the past, but typically what occurs is congress wither passes an extension which is what I'm anticipating with the House of Representatives coming back on Sunday, I'm kind of looking for an extension of current programs into next year so that the new congress can work on a farm bill and hopefully achieve passage of that next ," said Marsh.
Which is good news for consumers who simply can't afford to spend any more money on a gallon of milk.
"Everything right now is so high, if you get that, who's going to afford to buy anything because people are on a fixed income, they can't afford it," said George Medeiros.
Like we said earlier, those in the dairy business say they expect a major price hike in milk will be avoided with a last minute extension of the farm bill. At the same time, those same people say they can only shake their head at how things work in Washington D.C.