Sequestration cut could raise milk prices at the store

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BRACKETT, Wis. (WEAU) -- "We won't know production numbers, we won't know cow numbers," said Jane Mueller.

Mueller is a farmer who lives just outside Brackett. She says monthly information on the number of cows and milk production nationwide is vital for dairy farmers and the industry.

Both numbers are reported by the USDA. In a way, it is a tool used to help make business decisions. But because of sequestration cuts, the USDA will not be reporting the numbers for the next six months.

"If you want to lock in a price for your cows or your own milk production, so you have some kind of safety net of your own, you don't have those numbers to balance on," she said.

She says there are other sources out there to gauge the market, but losing this data, means a loss of consistency. Ultimately, it could also have an impact on what you pay for milk.

"The consumer in the store, all the sudden the prices are not based on a real science, it's just a random number that somebody picked," she said.

Jerry Clark, a Crops and Soil Agronomy Educator at UW-Extension says if those numbers are not available, it could cause a trickle-down effect to the retail level.

"If that production number is up or down that will reflect commodity price, the price of milk as it goes through the marketing channels, and then it could go down to retail eventually," he said.

He added not everyone follows USDA numbers to a tee, but not having them may make the milk market volatile.

Mueller says farms like hers may not feel the effects at first since she relies on her co-op to handle pricing. But it could be a different story for others.

"Bigger farms, they want to lock in a price based on what they can afford, and try to lock in something so they know how to budget," she added.

Mueller hopes to see the monthly reports return banking on the data to help turn a product from the farm, day in and day out.

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