Editor's note: Special thanks to Rob Vandenheuvel, Milk Producers Council of California, for creating awareness about this document.
USDA’s Ag Marketing Service-Dairy Programs has published a working document with a series of frequently asked questions surrounding the potential creation of a Federal Milk Marketing Order (FMMO) in California.
Three major California cooperatives (California Dairies Inc., Dairy Farmers of America and Land O’Lakes) have been working collaboratively on a draft petition to be submitted to USDA for the purpose of establishing a FMMO in California.
The document represents USDA Dairy Programs current thinking on certain topics, and is not intended to present binding USDA policy. As new details become available related to the proposed FMMO in California, answers may be modified.
For addition information, contact a USDA Dairy Marketing specialist at 202-720-4392.
1. Who could participate in a hearing on California becoming a Federal milk order?
Federal milk order hearings are open to the public, including people from other regions. Anyone can participate. Individuals testifying at the hearing are subject to cross examination. Anyone attending a hearing can cross examine witnesses. A USDA appointed Administrative Law Judge oversees the hearing proceedings to maintain order and fairness for the process.
The Notice of Hearing defines the scope of the hearing and what topics and proposals will be considered. Hearing participants may only provide information relevant to the scope of the hearing.
2. I heard that a Federal milk order hearing can take a long time.
Federal milk order hearings can be lengthy because any interested party can testify and anyone can cross examine witnesses. Administrative Law Judges preside over the hearings to help them run fairly, quickly, and efficiently.
When deciding whether a new milk order should be established or whether an existing order should be changed, the USDA must rely on the “hearing record.” This means that decisions can only be based on what is said at the hearing, data presented at the hearing in the form of “exhibits”, officially noticed documents, and “briefs” submitted after the close of the hearing. For these reasons, it is very important to get as much relevant data and testimony as possible into the hearing record. This can be time consuming, but ensures a fair and complete process.