Calif. dairy industry rallies for pricing changes

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“Fair pay for our milk!”

That was the rallying cry for hundreds of dairy farmers and their supporters who gathered at the state capital earlier this month to urge changes in the California milk-pricing system, according to the Visalia Times-Delta and Tulare Advance-Register in a report available here.

In recent years, dairies in California – and across the country – have dealt with financial hardships due to many factors, including high feed costs, increased labor costs, and moderate milk prices. The situation is so bleak that one cooperative launched a crisis hotline for dairy farmers and their families. Read more here.

“The dairymen are running out of money. A lot of them went broke. A lot more of them are going broke,” said Joe Simoes, owner of dairies in Tulare and Tipton.

It was this desperation that led dairy farmers to rally against California Department of Food and Agriculture (CDFA) Secretary Karen Ross, who sets the state’s milk pricing every month using the California Milk Order. Dairy farmers argue that Ross has been reducing how much dairies receive for their class 4b milk, which is used to manufacture cheese and whey, paying the state’s dairy producers less than dairies in surrounding states.   

In May, the CDFA held a hearing to determine if the value of whey should be raised in the state’s Class 4b pricing formula. Read more here.

Though Ross did not directly respond to the protest, she issued a statement just hours after her office was protested.

“When considering changes to the formulas used to calculate the minimum price, the Department is obligated to balance the economic impacts on producers, processors and consumers to ensure there is sufficient milk to meet demand, and that demand remains consistent. Because of the competing interests of these groups, the Department is often required to make difficult decisions,” Ross wrote in her blog post available on the CDFA’s website.

Ross also announced that the CDFA has created the Dairy Future Task Force, which includes 32 of the state’s dairy farmers, cooperatives and processors, to “make recommendations for changes to the pricing structure.” Read more about the task force.

After the success of the first rally, a second event has been planned for mid-October. Instead of targeting Ross, the group plans to focus on her boss, Governor Jerry Brown. Organizers hope that the noise and publicity generated by the ongoing protest will attract Brown’s attention and put added pressure on Ross.

Read more from the Visalia Times-Delta and Tulare Advance-Register here.

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Bc Canada  |  September, 26, 2012 at 08:52 AM

I guess people need to get hungry to figure out that farmers are people to ! Most people work 2000 hr a year ,dairy farmers work 3000+ hr and still can't make it ? Hal

Carroll Wade    
Jasper, N Y  |  September, 26, 2012 at 09:18 AM

Farmers just don't understand their place . We are all told how efficient we are . We produce the best, biggest and safest food anywher on the planet . We listen to acadameia when they tell us how to maximize our production skills . We listen to all the praises from politicians and accept all the awards for excellence in production,best breeder for our area and don't forget , we wre the first environmentalist too . We have accepted our role well over the years . We have our ranks disapear and dwindle We have watched our local businesses fail. We have seen the illeffects of consolidation of our school districts and yes we have watched the social function of our rural communities falter . We have everything the professors ,processers, co-op leaders and politicians have asked us to do . We are suppling this nation and part of the world with cheap raw materials, so others can make their businesses run more efficiently and profitably . Is it time that we as producers demand that we are adaquately compensated for our work and production? Of course it is !! Perhaps those co-op leaders , professors and politicians were to be compensated at thirty five per cent of parity and see how long they would stand still before they took action . Yes , dairy producers of California , it is time for action and just maybe dairy farmers around the U S will follow your lead . We need to say that , we will no longer accept all the praise and glory being placed upon us without being paid for our labor and production . It is not acceptable any longer . We also need to rid ourselves of those who keep cautioning us , " you have to be careful that you don't get the price of milk too high , or the processors will go broke or nobody "

Renae De Jager    
Merced, Ca,  |  September, 26, 2012 at 10:38 AM

Amen Carroll...hope you are well.

mn  |  September, 26, 2012 at 12:34 PM

Well said Carroll! The other day I found an old (mid 1980's) paper that said the problems with dairy farmers not being paid fairly for their milk will go away when there are less than 10,000 of them in the state of Minn, because then due to the smaller (???) number of farms they will be able to work together and control production to match market demands..... it is now 2012, there are less than 4600 of us left.... so much for that statement coming to be true! I do believe the thought process is still valid, when 1 dairyman is left, he or she WILL EARN A PROFIT.

MN  |  September, 26, 2012 at 06:11 PM

They have pit us against each other to keep us divided...Big vs. Small Mid-west vs. western...We need to unite together as none of us are be treated fairly. The coops are the biggest disappointment..our fore fathers created them and now they control us...What went wrong..It's time we stand up together1

MN  |  September, 26, 2012 at 06:15 PM

We need to stand up together. They purposely divide us by big vs. small and Midwest vs. West. This has worked for many years but it's time we unite as none of us are being treated fairly...the most disappointing thing is how our coops are working for us today. Our for fathers created them and not they control us...It's time we unite!

Florida  |  September, 29, 2012 at 03:37 PM

Well I for one appreciate everything that all of you do. However, there has to be a way to get you compensated without gouging the end user. A lot of us out here at the other end have to choose regularly wether to eat today or pay a bill, that is the truth. I am sure, from what you all are saying, you know the feeling. Somewhere in the middle somebody is getting rich off of your work, your cows, and your lives. It is at both of our expenses. Our family farm went out when I was little, they just couldn't make it work with cost. I hate to see it happen. We still have the property, nothing is more sad to see than a big farmhouse, and outbuildings with nothing there but memories.

Jackie Schmidts    
October, 03, 2012 at 08:49 AM

The best option for dairy producers in California is to consider joining the Federal Milk Market Order System. That is why the system was created, to help average prices out for all dairy farmers. The California state milk pricing system is broken and not providing a fair return to producers. Join the Federal Milk Market Order system now! Tell your dairy cooperatives to get started on making it happen!

Carlos Estacio    
Turlock, Ca.  |  November, 14, 2012 at 11:03 PM

Couldn't of said it better Carroll

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