“Doing nothing is not an option. Doing just a little bit is not an option.”

That’s what California Assemblywoman Kristin Olsen said during a hearing at the California Department of Food and Agriculture (CDFA) headquarters on Thursday, according to Capital Press.  

The hearing was called after the state’s dairymen and cheese processors negotiated an agreement to increase the minimum price of milk used to manufacture cheese and to cap the value of whey in the state’s minimum pricing formula for Class 4b.

This truce appears to have been short-lived.

Now one phrase, “if conditions warrant,” has become the pivotal point for both sides. 

Emotions ran high during the hearing, as politicians, experts, processers and producers filled the day with nearly seven hours of testimony. Supporters of the chance argue that California dairy producers are working with “substantial” negative margins compared to those in other major dairy states.

“If you incur losses, you can hang in there in the short run,” Richard Sexton, a professor and chairman of the University of California-Davis’ Agriculture and Resource Economics department, said. “If they persist in the long run, you go out of business. That’s what’s been happening to California dairy farms. The losses have been unabated.”

Others disagreed.

“This year’s (corn and grain) crops are in much better condition” than when feed costs spiked in late 2012, asserted Renee Peets, the Illinois-based Kraft Foods’ senior director for cheese and dairy procurement. “Therefore, they’re provided much-needed relief to farmers’ input costs.”

Read, “Milk producers, processors spar over proposed 4b price hike.”

The panel has 62 days to make a recommend to CDFA Secretary Karen Ross, who will make the final milk pricing decision. However, with the state losing six dairy farms each month, the stakes in the war on milk pricing are high. Read more here.