There was a time when the California dairy industry wouldn’t touch the Federal Milk Marketing Order (FMMO) system with a ten-foot cow prod. Apparently, that time is over.

Newly-elected U.S. Rep David Valadao, a dairy producer from Hanford, Calif., recently introduced legislation that would allow California dairy producers to petition the U.S. Secretary of Agriculture to be considered to join the FMMO while still keeping the state’s quota system intact. Valadao represents Kings County as well as parts of Fresno, Kern and Tulare Counties.

“Dairy is California’s largest agriculture industry,” he told reporters. “I’m proud to have introduced this bipartisan proposal as my first piece of legislation in the U.S. House of Representatives. Ultimately, even with this legislation, California dairymen will have the final say regarding their own pricing system. I look forward to working with my colleagues in Congress on this and other issues important to Central Valley agriculture.”

H.R. 1396 already has received strong support from the California Congressional Delegation. Original cosponsors include California congressmen Kevin McCarthy, Jim Costa, Jeff Denham, Doug LaMalfa and Devin Nunes.

California-based Milk Producers Council (MPC) also supports the bill.

“While California dairy farmers currently have the opportunity to petition USDA for the establishment of a California Order in the FMMO system, current law does not allow USDA to account for the ‘quota program’ that California has operated the past 40-plus years,” said MPC’s Rob Vandenheuvel. “This has been a sticking point in our previous discussions about joining the FMMO system. H.R. 1396 would specifically address that issue, allowing USDA to craft a California FMMO that recognizes the state-run quota program.”

The state’s dairy producers, who are losing hundreds of millions of dollars under the state-run system, believe they will be able to earn more money under the FMMO system.