California power outages affect dairy producers

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Some dairies in California’s central valley are reportedly experiencing power outages as a result of the state’s worsening energy crisis.

Jerry Higginbotham, extension dairy advisor in Fresno and Madera counties, says he was at a dairy near Chowchilla, Calif., Thursday morning when that dairy lost its power for an hour or two. The milking parlor was not operating at the time, he reports, although the dairy could have operated the parlor with a backup generator if needed.

Higginbotham says he has heard reports of other dairies in the area losing power on Wednesday or Thursday. Most of the outages are for an hour or two at a time.

He said many farms bought backup generators a year or two ago in anticipation of possible Y2K computer problems on Jan. 1, 2000.

Jim Tillison, executive director of The Alliance of Western Milk Producers, says the nature of the rolling blackouts affecting producers and dairy processing plants can be very disrupting, especially when no one has an idea when the outages will occur. “There is no warning in advance,” he says.

Currently, the state legislature is working on a plan to give Gov. Gray Davis authority to buy power at a cost of 5.5 cents per kilowatt or less from electricity wholesalers both inside or outside the state. The governor could then sell this power back to California’s cash-strapped utility companies. This plan would take advantage of the state’s excellent credit rating in order to gain long-term commitments from the energy suppliers.

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