Although an announcement made by California Department of Food and Agriculture Secretary Karen Ross introducing a short-term increase to the 4b or cheese milk price paid to dairy farmers was welcomed by producers throughout the state, the California Dairy Campaign is still emphasizing the need to join the federal milk marketing order.
Following a milk pricing hearing last month, Ross announced that the department would increase the amount that dairy producers are paid in order to bring prices closer in line with prices paid in the federal milk marketing order system from Aug. 1, 2015 to July 31, 2016.
The deal has proven to not be enough in the eyes of dairy producers throughout the state who have undergone increasingly difficult market conditions as a result of not being part of the Federal Milk Marketing Order.
“More than 45 percent of milk produced in the state is used to make cheese and today’s executive decision will increase cheese milk prices, but the increase is only for one year,” said CDC Executive Director Lynne McBride. “The only way to restore equity to California dairy producer prices in the long-term is by joining the federal milk marketing order system.”
According to McBride, the value of whey in the market is lower than it has been in the last five years since the price gap between the state pricing system and the federal order pricing system began to widen, causing California dairy farmers to consistently be among the lowest paid nationwide.
If the state were to join the Federal Milk Marketing Order, dairy producers will be given the right to vote for a fair milk price in order to restore equity to dairy producer pricing in California.
“We welcome the short-term increase, but the only way to restore equity in the long-term is by joining the federal order system to bring our prices and process for determining prices in line with the rest of the country,” said McBride.
McBride’s comments were echoed by CDC President Joe Augusto, who viewed the increase as “too little, too late” for the countless dairies throughout the state that will or have already gone out of business.
“Our state dairy pricing system has underpaid California dairy farmers by more than $1.8 billion since 2010,” said Augusto. “Finally CDFA Secretary Ross has recognized that our prices should be closer relationship with federal order prices, but the losses due to this longstanding inequity have been substantial and the damage irreparable for far too many California dairy farmers.”
According to CDC, more than 500 dairies have gone out of business in California since 2006, leaving less than 1,500 dairies in the state.