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Bill would allow California dairies to join federal pricing
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As a dairyman, Representative David Valadao (R-Hanford) knows more than his fair share about the decline of dairy industries in California. In response to the crisis, the Central Valley native’s first piece of legislation would allow California to join the Federal Milk Marketing Order system while continuing its state quota system.

The legislative action is co-sponsored by local Congressman Jeff Denham (R-Turlock), who wishes to focus on representing the long-term interests of California’s agricultural businesses. Rep. Jim Costa (D-Fresno), Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-Bakersfield), Rep. Doug LaMalfa (R-Redding), and Rep. Devin Nunes (R-Visalia) have all signed on to sponsor the bill after witnessing local dairy operators struggling to overcome the rising feed prices and low milk prices in California.

Since 1935, dairies have operated under state law. Within the last couple years, dairy producers within California have been forced to sell their milk at a significantly lower price compared to other states under federal pricing.

Shortly following February’s World Ag Expo, dairy cooperatives were configuring an analysis of how the federal pricing system would affect California’s dairy industry. Valadao’s bill hopes to remedy the industry’s current mishaps in California.

Though the bill would give dairymen more control over their resources, it would not benefit everyone in the dairy industry. Switching to a marketing order would mean that milk processors would have to pay more for the milk they use on any given dairy product.

Despite this setback, members of the California Dairy Campaign in Turlock and the California Farmers Union have backed the bill, and believe that the “California Milk Marketing Order Act” would positively impact those most affected by the dairy industry.

California Farmers Union President Joaquin Contente stated that the union's data steadily shows a negative descent in income. It costs more than $20 per hundredweight to produce milk in California, but prices paid to producers in January were at $16.60 per hundredweight.

Lynne McBride, executive director of the California Dairy Campaign, also stated the price for milk made into cheese in California is well below the average cost of those in the federal milk pricing system. The amount is a $2.30 per hundredweight from January’s data.

The California Dairy Campaign estimated that producers have lost a total of more than $800 million since January 2007 due to the inequity. It was recorded that 105 dairies were forced to shut down last year alone.

 “The price paid to California dairy producers continues to be significantly below prices paid in the federal order and as a result, far fewer dairy operations exist in our state today and many more are struggling to remain in business,” said California Dairy Campaign President Joe Augusto.

“We have collected hundreds of signatures from producers around the state in support of legislation to enable California to join the federal order and retain our state quota system,” said Contente. “By joining the federal order system, we can bring our prices into alignment with prices paid to producers in the federal orders and improve the outlook for dairies in our state.”

“The only way to restore some equity for dairy producers in our state is by joining the federal milk marketing order system,” Augusto said.