Milk could cost $7 a gallon next year

Current average gallon of milk costs around $3.47

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Milk prices could skyrocket next year if Congress doesn't act soon to pass a new farm bill.

Right now, the average gallon of milk costs around $3.47.

To compare, a gallon of regular gas costs about $3.34, and a gallon of water costs less than $1.

Without congressional action, milk could cost nearly $7 a gallon.

Existing subsidies for dairy producers expire in December, triggering a 1940s-era rule that the Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack said requires the government to buy milk, butter and cheese at about double the going rate.

"So the producer has the choice of selling it to me, (United States Department of Agriculture) or their normal processor," Vilsack said. "Obviously they're going to sell it to me, and that creates shortages for the processors, and that could lead to shortages in the grocery store."

Shoppers at one grocery store weren't happy to hear they could be paying double.

"I think it's pretty horrible, especially as a mom with a family," one shopper said. "I think milk is something that most people have always thought of as something essential to have in their fridge."

"It would be a major, major deal, so we need to find out what we need to do," said shopper, Sandy Lindsay.

"I would probably buy less, in smaller containers. But you know, my heart goes out to eh farmers, I feel bad for them," said shopper, Ann Inman.

Prices for products made with milk would also go up.

"I would still buy some milk and some cheeses and all, but probably half as much," one shopper said.

His message to Congress?

"Get your act together and don't increase these prices," the shopper said.

With just days to go before the current farm bill expires, lawmakers are still trying to reach agreement on issues like food stamps and crop insurance.

Vilsack said if a framework for a deal is reached by January, these price spikes can be avoided.

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