Wednesday a public hearing was held in Clovis over a proposal by USDA to change California’s milk pricing to federal jurisdiction. Support for the idea has been building in the Valley, the state’s dairy hub.
USDA’s recommended decision was released two years after three dairy cooperatives — California Dairies, Inc., Dairy Farmers of America and Land O’Lakes — petitioned the agency to hold a public hearing to establish a federal order for California.
Regulated minimum prices in a California federal order, especially for milk used in cheese manufacturing, are “likely to be higher” than what handlers would pay under the California state order says USDA. However, pooling regulations under the proposed California federal order would allow handlers to elect not to pool milk used in manufacturing.
Local Congressman David Valadao says “As California’s largest agriculture industry, dairy production contributes greatly to the economy of our state as well as the regional economy of the Central Valley. Under the current pricing system, dairies throughout the state have closed down, resulting in lost revenue and jobs.”
Local dairymen seem to agree.
California Dairy Campaign President Joe Augusto said “California dairy farmers have been substantially underpaid compared to dairy farmers in the federal milk marketing order system for far too many years. The California federal milk marketing order pro- posal put forward by the state’s cooperatives will bring our prices in line with prices paid around the country and restore equity to dairy producer pricing in our state.”
Milk Producers Council President Sybrand Vander Dussen added “We are excited to see this process begin and stand side-by-side with our State’s cooperatives in strongly supporting this proposal. For far too long, California’s dairy families have struggled under a system that artificially discounts the value of the milk they produce, to the tune of more than $1.5 Billion in the past five years. We urge USDA to schedule this hearing as soon as possible and to implement this proposal that would restore a fair price for the milk our dairies produce.”
Local farmer and Western United Dairymen President Tom Barcellos says “We are pleased this detailed project has finally come to fruition. It confirms what we have known for a long time, pointing out the inequities in milk pricing that are detrimental to California producers. We will follow its progress moving forward and keep our members fully informed as the process evolves. We encourage producers to stay engaged so that we can maintain the integrity of the proposal.”
Barcellos says California dairy operators face higher costs costs but are paid less by “an average $1.50 per lb or more” than other jurisdictions in the US.