PhotoThe "fiscal cliff" drama is center stage these days but there are lots of back stories going on as well, including the possibility of a huge increase in the retail price of milk.

Forget millionaires' tax rates and the eternal guns-vs-butter debate, we're talking about pricing milk out of the mouths of infants.

It all has to do with Congress' nasty habit of deadlocking on just about every single issue. This time it's the Farm Bill, which covers a vast array of subsidies, price controls and other topics that rank as great mysteries to most consumers.

The current farm bill expired three months ago and, in typical Congressional fashion, no one could agree on whether to renew it or begin the tedious process of reworking it.

If nothing is done, milk prices would revert to rules that date back to 1949. Under complex price support rules, the retail price of milk would be expected to reach $6.00 to $8.00 a gallon versus current levels of about  $3.50.

The retail price of milk would not immediately increase but it would do so as the existing supply of milk worked its way through the pipeline.

Possible agreement

Farm-state lawmakers in the House and Senate said Sunday afternoon that they had reached agreement on a one-year extension of the expiring bill but no one knows whether the full House and Senate will approve the extension and whether President Obama will sign it.

For that matter, no one knows if the House and Senate leadership will even bother to bring the matter to a vote. After all, there is the little matter of the fiscal cliff to deal with. Also, one mustn't forget that many lawmakers are lame ducks. Their terms end when this session of Congress whimpers into history, so it's not like they have to face the voters again anytime soon.

Nor are the solons happy to be in Washington when they could be curled up at home or basking in the sun on a "fact-finding" mission to some warmer clime.

It could all be a recipe that leaves a sour taste in consumers' mouths.

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