The California Department of Food and Agriculture (CDFA) has denied a petition from three dairy cooperatives for an emergency hearing on changes to the state’s Class 4b milk-pricing formula.

The CDFA rejected the petition. filed by California Dairy Inc., Dairy Farmers of America and Land O'Lakes, after it failed to clarify Secretary Karen Ross’ authority to initiate the hearing. And there is debate whether such a measure would simply be a short-term solution to a larger set of problems. 

The co-ops contend that their members need to survive in the short-term. One-hundred of the state’s dairies are expected to close in 2012. It's been a bad year for California dairies due to high feed costs, not enough time to recover from the disastrous year of 2009, and the state’s milk-pricing system.

Many farmers would like the state's 4b pricing formula changed to bring the value of whey to more in line with surrounding states in the federal order system. Read, “To (4b) or not to (4b): that is the question.”

Rob Vandenheuvel, general manager of the Milk Producers Council in Ontario, Calif., says an improved Class 4b would have made a difference this year.

2012 would have been a bad year regardless, Vandenheuvel acknowledges. "But our California dairy farmers would have been better equipped, and for many dairies it would have been the difference between a devastating year (which we had) and an uncomfortable one," he told Dairy Herd Network. 

Land O’Lakes has announced plans to resubmit the petition, and a coalition of dairy groups has filed a lawsuit to force the change. Read more from Capital Press here.