How China may help keep Calif. dairies in business

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The match initially appears to be made in dairy heaven – China’s growing middle class generates greater demand for milk, and California can help supply that demand with the state's apparent surplus of milk. But is it really a good fit?

According to "PBS Newshour," that is the question on the minds of everyone from dairy farmers to environmentalists.

For the state’s dairymen, the move to capitalize on this expanding market could help them creep out of financial hole left by a recession, high feed costs, and low milk price – a perfect storm that forced out hundreds of dairies over the last several years. California dairymen lost $882 million in 2012 alone.

“We know a lot of these markets in China will grow 10- or 20-fold over the next few decades. By being there now, we can be at the start of that growth," Ross Christieson, a consultant for the California Milk Advisory Board, said in an online interview.

Click here to read more or listen to the broadcast.

However, milk is only part of the equation. The state also exports alfalfa to China. 

“(Alfalfa) exports to China are definitely increasing,” Danlel Putnam, agronomist at the University of California, Davis, told KQED News. “We have seen a pretty dramatic rise since the year 2005-2006, and I think all expectations are that it will probably increase again this coming year.”

For dairies in the state, exporting alfalfa makes feed more expensive.

Environmentalists worry that the increased exports of alfalfa, which use about a fifth of the state’s water, combined with the new demand for California’s milk will further strain the state's natural resources. 

Read more here.

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June, 19, 2013 at 08:39 AM

Beware! Eventually China will just buy milk coops like they bought Smithfield.

June, 19, 2013 at 10:25 AM

The Chinese are already pursuing construction of dairy plants here in the Midwest.

June, 20, 2013 at 08:01 AM

Seriously, can they be any worse than DFA?

CNY  |  June, 21, 2013 at 06:03 AM

In the world market China behaves like a capitalist. Perhaps they could offer "our" (joke) monopolistic coop some competition. The best prices I ever received were when I was able to sell to private handlers.

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