Will cheaper land, lower taxes, fewer environmental regulations and higher milk prices be enough to lure dairy farmers out of California? That’s just what officials from South Dakota, Colorado and other states hope, according to a report by the Los Angeles Times.
"Ten years ago, California was the low-cost producer," Leslie Butler, an agriculture economist at the University of California-Davis, said. With low milk prices and high feed costs, "it's become more difficult to dairy here."
California is the nation’s top milk-producing state -- thanks the state’s $8-billion dairy industry. However, a trifecta of high feed cost, not enough time to recover from the disastrous year of 2009, and the state’s milk-pricing system has combined to make it rough on farmers.
Though state lawmakers are mulling over a bill that would give the state’s struggling dairy industry a chance to enter the federal milk marketing system, it may not be enough to convince the state’s dairy farmers to stay.
"The future in California is not good — not for dairies," dairy farmer Sybrand Vander Dussen said.
Last year, more than 100 of the state’s dairies shut their doors for good.
Vander Dussen and his son, Mark, sold their 2,000-cow dairy in Corona, Calif., in 2010. Mark Vander Dussen and his family moved to Greeley, Colo., with 800 Holstein heifers to restart their dairy venture near a $250 million cheese plant currently under construction.
Colorado is just one state hoping to attract dairy farmers from the Golden State. Earlier this year at World Ag Expo, as other states pitched their incentives, South Dakota brought its governor to help lure California dairymen.
"We’ve got lower feed costs than California, higher milk prices – on average, about $3 a hundredweight, sometimes as much as $4 a hundredweight better,” South Dakota Governor Dennis Daugaard told Dairy Herd Network. “And, of course, the tax environment is very good. We have no personal income tax, no corporate income tax.”