On Saturday, Rep. Gil Gutknecht, Chairman of the Subcommittee on Department Operations, Oversight, Dairy, Nutrition, and Forestry, convened a hearing in Fresno, California to review the state's dairy industry.  The Subcommittee heard from a variety of dairy producers and processors representing California's dairy industry.   Fellow Subcommittee members Reps. Dennis Cardoza, D-CA, and Jim Costa, D-CA, also attended Saturday's hearing.

"California's dairy producers and processors are among the industry's leaders, and their testimony reflected this," said Gutknecht. "Each witness offered thoughtful comments that will be helpful to Members as we consider the next farm bill. I thank my colleagues from California for their help in organizing this important field hearing."

California is the nation's leading milk producing state, producing approximately 19 percent of the nation's milk supply.  With 1.5 million milk cows statewide, it is estimated that one out of every six dairy cows in the U.S. lives on one of the 2,200 California dairy farms. Additionally, California also is second in the nation in cheese production. In fact, approximately 46 percent of all California milk goes into California cheese production.

"I am grateful to Chairman Gil Gutknecht for bringing the Subcommittee to California to hear firsthand from an impressive panel of experts representing both producers and processors from our state's dairy industry" said Rep. Dennis Cardoza. "This hearing was an important step in recognizing the challenges and opportunities for our dairy industry to prosper in the next farm bill."

The California field hearing is the latest in a series of meetings Chairman Gutknecht has held over the past two years to discuss dairy policy prior to the next farm bill. Last year, Chairman Gutknecht held a meeting with local producers and processors in New

Mexico as well as a forum in St. Paul, Minnesota to examine the global dairy industry. Earlier this year, the Subcommittee convened a field hearing in Winona, Minnesota to review the state of the Upper-Midwest dairy industry.

While in California, Chairman Gutknecht also toured the Leprino Foods cheese facility in Lemoore and the dairy farm of John Zonneveld, a Land O'Lakes board member, in Laton.

The Subcommittee maintains jurisdiction over agency oversight; review and analysis; special investigations; food stamps, nutrition and consumer programs; forestry in general, forest reserves other than those created from the public domain; energy and bio-based energy production; and dairy and will be largely responsible for reviewing and writing the portions of the next farm bill that fall under its jurisdiction.

Witness testimony is available on the Committee website: http://agriculture.house.gov/hearings/index.html. A full transcript of the hearing will be available on the Committee website 4-6 weeks following the hearing.

Witness List

Panel I

  • Richard Cotta, Senior Vice President for Government and Producer Relations, California Dairies Inc., Los Banos, Calif.
  • Joaquin Contente, Dairy Producer and President, California Farmers Union, Hanford, Calif.
  • Sabino Herrera, Dairy Producer, Alhem Farm Partnership, Hilmar, Calif.
  • Dino Giacomazzi, Dairy Producer, Western United Dairymen, Hanford, Calif.
  • Leroy Ornellas, Dairy Producer, Tracy, Calif.

Panel II

  • Jeep Dolan, Vice President of Operations, Driftwood Dairy, El Monte, Calif.
  • Sue Taylor, Vice President for Dairy Policy and Procurement, Leprino Foods Company,
  • John Jeter, President and CEO, Hilmar Cheese Company, Hilmar, Calif.

House Ag Committee press release