Pizzeria Owner Worries About Lack Of Farm Bill And Cheese Prices - News and Weather For The Quad Cities -

Pizzeria Owner Worries About Lack Of Farm Bill And Cheese Prices

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Congress remains deadlocked on a new farm bill.

The debate centers on how much to cut from the food stamp program.

With only a week left before Christmas break, a deal may not be reached in time.

If nothing is passed, on January first, the law will revert back to the one passed in 1949.

The first thing consumers will notice are higher milk prices.

In 1949 the government helped a disorganized dairy industry by paying higher prices than it does now.

Over 60 years later the dairy industry has gotten more efficient, but if the old law takes effect, the government will be forced to buy milk products at a higher price than the going rate.

That's expected to double the price of a gallon of milk, and everything milk is used to make.

Among those most fearful of this old law are pizzerias.

"We put a lot of cheese on our pizzas so you know, we're up to $8.00 to $10.00 a pizza, our cost," says Poor Boy's Pizza and Pub owner Ken Auker. He's owned the restaurant for 15 years. He says the secret to a good pizza is hand tossed dough, but almost every pizza requires another ingredient, cheese. Auker orders 500 pounds each week.

"That's just Mozzarella for the pizzas, we make a lot of Italian food here too, so Parmesan cheese, that runs $5.00 a pound, we use 80 pounds of that a month, all the cheese for the sandwiches," says Auker.

If a farm bill doesn't get passed before the new year, the price of milk could double. Auker says he'd see that spike immediately.

"They run very close to what milk does, it's a fluctuation market, price of milk goes up, price of cheese follows instantly."

He already spends $5,000 a month on cheese. Doubling that to $10,000 gobbles up his pizza profits.

"That would wipe out my bottom line, restaurants, typically, like this run on a two to three percent net profit if you're successful, if we're looking at another $5,000 per month in cheese prices, that kills my profit," says Auker.

Congressional sources tell TV-6 the House has a place on the schedule this week for a farm bill vote. That's only expected though if the House and Senate can work out the differences in their competing farm bills. Auker's hopeful something will pass, but he's not counting on it.

"This one is so ridiculous, because it's a 1949 bill, because Congress can't get off their butts and do something about this, this is ridiculous," says Auker.

He knows without cheese, he's not going to sell many pizzas.

Congress faced the same dairy issue last year.

It extended the current farm bill for another year.

This time there is talk of a one month extension of the current farm bill, but it's unclear if an extension could be passed.