All eyes were on California Department of Food and Agriculture (CDFA) Secretary Karen Ross this week as she announced her decision on requests made by the state’s dairy farmers to change the milk pricing system. The wait is over and the results are, at least temporarily, relieving.
According to a Capital Press report available here, the CDFA temporarily increased Class 1, 2, 3 4a and 4b prices for the period of Feb. 1 to May 31. In particular, the increases included:
- Class 1: approximately 5 cents per hundredweight
- Class 2 and 3: approximately 10 cents per hundredweight
- Class 4a and 4b: approximately 30 cents per hundredweight
The state’s dairy farmers say the 25- to 30-cent hike for 4b milk (used in cheese-making) is not nearly enough. See “Dairy farmers mock milk price hike.”
California's dairy industry has endured multiple setbacks over the last few years. Thanks to high feed costs, not enough time to recover from the disastrous year of 2008, and the state’s milk-pricing system, it is believed that about 100 of the state's dairies closed down last year. Read more here.
In November 2012, the CDFA denied a petition from three dairy cooperatives for an emergency hearing on changes to the state’s Class 4b milk-pricing formula. However, California’s cheese-makers contend that increasing this price could push cheese production out of the state.
Cheese producers in other states are salivating at the chance to profit from California’s pricing problems, including those in Wisconsin. According to a report from the Beloit Daily News, forcing California cheese-makers onto an even playing field could increase sales of Wisconsin cheese.
David Fuhrmann, chief executive officer and president of Foremost Farms, Wisconsin’s top cheese producer, believes that the increase “could be very significant.” It could also add jobs and increase farm values throughout the state.
“I’m excited about the opportunities to gain market share and grow our business in Wisconsin,” Fuhrmann told the Beloit Daily News.