No one knows what will happen to milk prices once Jan. 1 rolls around.

On Friday, congressional leaders were to meet with President Obama on the impending “fiscal cliff,” but it has become apparent that farm bill provisions will not be built into a possible compromise.

Meanwhile, there is a media feeding frenzy over the possibility of higher milk prices in the grocery store.

“Milk could reach as high as eight bucks a gallon,” said Fox News correspondent Dominic Di-Natale in this report.

Di-Natale’s report includes an interview with Chris Galen, senior vice president of communications at the National Milk Producers Federation. NMPF has been encouraging passage of a new farm bill, which would avert the so-called "dairy cliff," uncertainty for farmers, and skyrocketing milk prices in the grocery store. In the interview, Galen mentions that a new farm bill would be a boon for taxpayers, as well.

“The farm bill is like this low-hanging ornament on the congressional Christmas tree,” Galen said. "If they just embrace it, they can automatically come up with tens of billions of dollars in budget savings.”

Yet, the farm bill has been stalled in the U.S. House of Representatives since last summer.

If nothing is done by the end of the year, the next step will be up to U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack. USDA will be faced with the prospect of re-implementing a 1949 law that is permanent legislation in the absence of new farm bills.

On Thursday, the International  Dairy Foods Association sent this letter to Vilsack urging him to proceed in a thoughtful and deliberate manner, using the formal rule-making process.  

“This will enable stakeholders, not just dairy producers and processors but also food manufacturers, food retailers, consumers and others, to voice their concerns prior to the implementation of any new rule,” IDFA’s letter said.

The rule-making process could take several weeks or months, which may give Congress enough time to pass a new farm bill.

Also, see “Commentary: Will we go over the dairy cliff?”