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Agriculture Secretary Vilsack warns of higher milk prices

PHOENIX -- U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack is warning that you could soon be paying as much as $7 for a gallon of milk.

It's because an agriculture bill that provides government subsidies to farmers expired last summer.

Vilsack says that if a new farm bill isn't passed soon, Congress may have to revert to a 1949 law that forces the government to buy milk from farmers at twice today's average price of $3.65 a gallon. Vilsack says the government could then pass those costs along to you.

But United Dairymen of Arizona CEO Keith Murfield doesn't think that's going to happen.

"Even if the farm bill does not get signed, and the financial cliff happens, I don't see any changes in the milk price," Murfield said. "In fact, in January, we're going to see the milk price go down 20 cents a gallon from December."

That's because milk prices are tied to butter and cheese. "The butter powder market and the cheese market have dropped in the last month, which will affect the price of what we drink out of the bottle from the stores," said Murfield.

But Murfield says if congressional Republicans and President Obama don't come to an agreement to avert the "fiscal cliff," the earliest that we could see an impact on milk prices would be in March.

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About the Author


Years with the company: I started on January 2, 2006.

Education: I was born in San Antonio, Texas, but we moved to Phoenix when I was one-year-old in 1957. I grew up here and graduated from Alhambra High School and attended Phoenix College.

Family: I am married to my wife Rene', who is a librarian in the Washington school district. During free time, I may be found playing basketball in the driveway with my son, Devin. He's also keeping me busy with school, Little League, and playing in chess tournaments around the Valley.

Favorite food: Lots of favorite food, but our favorite restaurant is Fajitas.

Favorite spot in Arizona: The Little America Hotel in Flagstaff.

Favorite news memory: We have to go back to October 15, 1979. I was a country music air personality at KROP Radio in Brawley, California, when we had a 6.7 earthquake. Thankfully, there were no deaths and only minor injuries, but the entire community was pretty freaked out and listening to the station on their transistor radios. I would not want to go through an earthquake again, but it sure was a great night to work in radio and see how it can make a difference in people's lives.

First job: Working as a stringer for 'The Arizona Republic' at high school football games. My first real job was flipping burgers at the old Sandy's Hamburgers at 51st Avenue and Indian School Road. My first radio job was as announcer at KALJ radio in Yuma in 1977.

First concert: Doug Oldham gospel concert in the 1970s at the old East High School in Phoenix.

Favorite sports team: Phoenix Roadrunners minor league hockey. My dad took me to a game when I was in grade school, and I was hooked. I wanted to be a radio hockey play-by-play man. I used to take my cassette recorder and sit up in the rafters of the Coliseum and do play-by-play. It was great later in life to also take my son to Roadrunners games. Too bad the team just folded, I'll miss them. (Going to the Coyotes is fun, but they're not "my" team.)

Outside interests: My family and I are active in our church - Northern Hills Community Church in Phoenix. We enjoy going to movies, sporting events, and like to vacation at the Beach Cottages in the Pacific Beach area of San Diego. And I love to play catch, basketball, football with my son.

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