In recent years, California’s milk production has seen a steady decline causing dairy farm closures as well as dropping milk prices. The continual decrease in one of the state's most productive agricultural commodities has raised concern at the national level.
California Senator Barbra Boxer and Representative Jim Costa recently signed onto a congressional letter calling for immediate relief to dairy farmers nationwide.
The letter signed by 27 Senators and 34 Representatives called for USDA to take any and all actions available in order to make an immediate market injection and offer financial assistance that will directly support U.S. dairy farmers equally.
“We continue to see dairies close across our state at an alarming rate,” said Lynne McBride, California Dairy Campaign executive director. “It is critical that Congress and USDA work together to provide relief to dairy farm families or more dairies will go out of operation.”
The CDC has joined a nationwide effort to continuously provide aid to local dairy farmers in any way possible. Working closely with the National Farmers Union and dairy farm organizations from across the country, the CDC encourages lawmakers to respond to the needs of local farmers.
California dairy producers are paid some of the lowest mailbox prices — the actual price dairy operators receive for their milk — in the country and have been hit hard by the drop in milk prices that began in December 2014.
According to the California Department of Food and Agriculture, the average cost of production in California totaled $18.44 per hundredweight (cwt) in the first quarter of 2016 while the mailbox price or net price paid to dairy farmers totaled $13.61 per cwt in March 2016.
“We’re looking for direct support to dairy farmers to address mounting losses that have been happening for many months,” said McBride. “Continuing to urge any and all resources be used to provide relief is the key here.”
This difference in cost and sale price has slowly begun to cripple the dairy industry, forcing many to close up shop.
The dairy industry in California accounts for $25 billion in annual sales as well as 189,000 jobs. Stanislaus County alone produced more than $950 million worth of milk in 2014.
“When these dairy producers go out of business it has a massive effect on the rest of California’s economy, with some sort of relief it can help sustain the industry,” said McBride. “The more dairy farmers can reach out to lawmakers to let them know firsthand how serious the need for relief is.”