California Groups Join National Effort to Reject TPP

California Farm and Rural Groups Join 160+ Organizations to Ask Congress to Reject TPP, Stand Up for Independent Farmers and Ranchers

The Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) has become a divisive issue in the nation’s capital, and criticism intensified after 161 food, farm, faith and rural organizations, including 9 from California, sent a letter to Capitol Hill yesterday, April 27, 2016–urging lawmakers to reject the trade pact.

“The main beneficiaries of the TPP are the companies that buy, process and ship raw agricultural commodities, not the farmers who face real risks from rising import competition. TPP imports will compete against U.S. farmers who are facing declining farm prices that are projected to stay low for years,” the organizations wrote. California groups including Belcampo, California Dairy Campaign, California Farmers Union, Community Alliance with Family Farmers, Ecological Farming Association, Food & Water Watch, Rooted in Community, Rooted in Community Youth Food Justice Leadership Network and Roots of Change signed the letter.TPP madeInAmerica

The White House has promoted the TPP as an export-boon for farmers to generate support for the agreement, but past trade agreements have not always delivered on export promises, the letter noted. For example, the United States’ total combined exports of corn, soybeans and wheat have remained steady at about 100 million metric tons for the last 30 years despite a raft of free trade agreements since the mid-1990s.

“Trade deals do not just add new export markets – the flow of trade goes both ways – and the U.S. has committed to allowing significantly greater market access to imports under the TPP,” the groups explained. Especially “alarming” to the organizations is the agreement’s complete lack of enforceable provisions against currency manipulation, a substantial cause of America’s debilitating $531 billion trade imbalance.

California Dairy Campaign President Joe Augusto stated, “The Trans-Pacific Partnership will mean that imports from New Zealand and other countries will greatly increase, especially imports of concentrated dairy products. As more and more dairies in California go out of business, passage of the TPP will lead to a further decline in milk production across our state.”

The TPP poses particular risks for dairy farmers and cattle producers. The TPP dairy export opportunities were more modest than promised, but the TPP will likely increase imports of milk and whey protein concentrates from global dairy powerhouse New Zealand during a period of declining farmgate milk prices in the U.S. The United States imported nearly 2.3 billion pounds of beef from TPP partners but only exported about 1.2 billion pounds in 2015. The TPP will also increase beef and cattle imports while domestic cattle prices are plummeting.

California Farmers Union President Joaquin Contente stated, “Farmers in California are some of the most highly regulated in the world, and under the Trans-Pacific Partnership, they will have to compete against a flood of imports that do not meet the same high standards that farmers here are required to follow. Any potential export gains can be erased at any point when our competitors devalue their currency because currency manipulation is not addressed in the TPP. The TPP also does not crack down on the value-added taxes (VAT) that our competitors can impose which make our exports uncompetitive in other markets.”

The TPP also covers important agricultural policy areas such as investment, procurement, labeling, food safety, animal health and crop disease. The stringent rules and dispute system under the TPP make it easier to successfully challenge and overturn domestic laws, as happened last year to country of origin meat labels.

“The TPP will bring a wave of fruit and vegetable imports that will inundate farmers, consumers and inspectors,” said Food & Water Watch California Director Adam Scow. “The TPP benefits the biggest agribusiness and food companies at the expense of California communities that are trying to strengthen and rebuild local, sustainable food systems.”

The letter and complete list of signers can be read here.

California Farmers Union contact: Lynne McBride, 925-385-0217,
California Dairy Campaign contact: Lynne McBride, 925-385-0217,
Food & Water Watch contact: Adam Scow,
See the California TPP website for the government’s perspective.
2021-05-12T11:17:13-07:00April 28th, 2016|

National Dairy Crisis Continues—Part 2

National Dairy Crisis—A Way Forward, Part 2

By Laurie Greene, Editor

In our continuing coverage of the national dairy crisis marked by high inventories and below-production costs-prices, industry proponents are considering ‘market responsive’ ways to help with inventories, such as donating to the Feeding America organization or to other food banks. Tom Van Nortwick, owner and publisher of Fresno-based Agribusiness Publications, which has published a dairy magazine for 35 years, has been closely involved with hundreds of dairy producers from 2009 through June 2014 in the organization and establishment of the National Dairy Producers Organization. This nationwide organization focuses on keeping dairies profitable especially when market conditions squash dairy pricing.

Van Nortwick, who believes donating excess milk would be relatively easy and painless for the dairy industry, commented, “We are not going to specially package it; it is going to be what it is and where it is. It is then their responsibility to deal with it after that. The milk has already been processed and stored, and it’s waiting to be sold.”

In picking up all these excess dairy products, food banks such as Feeding America would dramatically reduce inventories. Van Nortwick explained, “We have found in studying these inventory levels, that when inventory gets to a certain level, it starts to impact the value of what someone is willing to pay me—a dairy producer—for the milk that I am pulling out of our cow today. And so we are recommending to our dairy producers that it might take literally 15 cents to impact the price of milk today which is currently $5 under the price of production and $7-$10 away from profitability.”

“The idea,” he continued, “is to have producers put up 15 cents per hundredweight into a savings account, which, when needed, would buy up excess inventory on the finished product side—the milk, cheese, milk powder and butter markets. Producers would then donate the purchased product to churches, food banks and Feeding America.

Tom Van Nortwick further expounded, “What if you invest $1 and get a $10 return? What if you invested 15 cents and got a $10 return? Is that a great plan? That is a great plan. The ‘investment’ is actually buying up [excess] inventory from the inventory [of processors and manufacturers] so it is no longer there. Because all of that is tracked, everybody knows how much there is and where it is. So if you are watching the market, you know if you should be buying more cheese, or making more cheese, or more powder. GM doesn’t make more cars than the dealers can sell; otherwise GM shuts the plant down. Everybody screams and hollers, but guess what? They know if they are going to survive, they have got to back off and not make more cars until the dealers, the selling organizations, pick up the slack.”

Van Nortwick says the dairy industry needs to focus more on the milk after it leaves the farm, “It is vitally important that we in the dairy producers sector start paying attention to what is going on with the milk, and the products being manufactured from milk after it leaves the farm. We are doing a wonderful job in how we produce it, the care and keeping of the animals, the sustainability of the environment, the recycling of the waste material; all of that we do better than anybody else in the world.”

“Do we need to be ever watchful?” he asked. “We have a new program called, ‘Picture Perfect’ in the industry, especially agriculture. All of agriculture needs to be ‘Picture Perfect.’ Do you know why? ‘Because everyone has a camera. Everyone’s got their own video recorder and anything can be seen anytime and filmed anytime. And a picture taken can go viral tomorrow, or tonight—even while we are asleep. So, we have to be picture perfect. We already do that.

He implored, “I want to say to dairy producers across the country, ‘You win. You make the most. You make the best. But that is not what we need right now in order to be sustainable. We need you to pay attention to your milk and what happens with your milk after it leaves the farm.”



National Dairy Producers Organization

Feeding America


2021-05-12T11:17:14-07:00February 25th, 2016|

National Dairy Crisis—A Way Forward, Part 1

A Way Forward Out of National Dairy Crisis

First in a Series

By Patrick Cavanaugh, Deputy Editor

The national dairy industry is in crisis right now. Milk Prices are at an all-time low due to oversupply and drastically lowered exports. The seesaw scenario has inventories up and prices down below production costs.

Tom Van Nortwick, owner and publisher of Agribusiness Publications based in Fresno, has published a dairy magazine for 35 years. He was closely involved with hundreds of dairy producers from 2009 through June 2014 in the organization and establishment of the National Dairy Producers Organization nationwide. The organization focuses on keeping dairies profitable especially when market conditions force down dairy pricing.

Tom Van Nortwick

Tom Van Nortwick

Van Nortwick told California Ag Today, “The biggest problem our dairymen are facing today in California and across the country is that the price of milk, as set by the market and by supply and demand, is actually below the cost of production. So they are making a hundredweight of milk; it is on the market for sale; but the price that they are receiving for every hundredweight of milk is actually lower than what it costs them to make it. And that has been going on for most of 2015 and now we are heading into ’16 towards ’17, and there doesn’t seem to be a solution in play from anyone, anywhere.”

“The big question is how can this be sustainable for dairies, which, over the last 10 years, on average, have had milk prices below production costs?” Van Nortwick asked. “We are not sure,” he explained. “In fact, what we have seen is huge attrition in the dairy industry.”

“In September 2011, there were 110,00 dairy producers in America,” said Van Nortwick. “Today, there are 45,000-60,000 milk producers at some level in the country. We have had huge attrition as we have gone through nearly a decade of really high volatility and low prices. For the majority of the time, especially the last 7 years, it has been extremely difficult.”

“We had a wonderful 2014 when supply and demand were more in balance and there were no excesses,” Van Nortwick stated. “Our global milk sales were high, and yet that has now changed, driving the price of milk throughout 2015 to unsustainable [low] levels.”

Van Nortwick observed that survivors in the dairy industry, particularly in California, have been able to diversify into other crops for positive cash flow. “Whether it is nuts or almonds, of course we are going pillar to post with almonds in California anyways,” he remarked. “Someone the other day said, ‘Hey Tom, you might have to get used to the fact that California is more suited to produce these specialty crops than it is to produce feed for cows to turn into milk.’”

Van Nortwick contends there is a way for the dairy industry, not only in California, but nationally, to do something about these low prices. “The proposal we make is all about a way forward. Dairy producers in this country who have been in their barns over many years and have seen these conditions, have asked, ‘What if we did it this way?’”

090“So when we formed the National Dairy Producer’s Organization nearly five years ago,” he elaborated, “incorporated in the contract with producers was a long list of recommendations that needed to be implemented. We have not yet been able to implement very many of these and there are good men who are continuing that effort,” he noted.
“But one of the things we wanted to talk about most,” Van Nortwick said, “was the Dairy Pricing Organization originating from Robin Berg, a dairy producer in Wisconsin, that gave specific ideas to what dairy producers could do. We proposed that price volatility could be removed from the marketplace by dairy producers being market-responsive with their milk production on the farm, relative to profitable demand in the marketplace. If you make too much milk, and it cannot be sold, the price for—not just that excess milk—but all milk, goes down.”

Nortwick further explained, “So picture a great big tank that we fill up every day, and everyday it goes down. But if we [over pour and] push milk out of the top of that tank and any of it spills over the side and onto the ground, then every bit of milk in the whole tank becomes less valuable.”

“So, we have to be market responsive,” he continued, “How much milk can we use at any given time? The big dilemma that has come about today, is that the high global demand we were enjoying in 2011, 2012, 2013, and even as far back as 2010, was double digit growth in every one of those four years. When the producers finally mitigated their excess milk production in 2013, dramatic price increases in 2014 resulted. Milk was at record levels during that nearly twelve month period of time.”

Van Nortwick cautioned, “Unfortunately what was ignored were warnings—ample signs available to us in the first quarter of 2014, even in the fourth quarter of 2013—that should have warned dairy producers, ‘We are losing; demand is falling. Don’t keep increasing the amount of milk you make every month.’”

Van Nortwick clarified this loss in demand was mostly due to global exports. “We have sustained, for the most part, all of our domestic demand,” he stated, “Those numbers have not changed at all.”

“But here is that tank of milk overflowing,” he illuminated, “and because our tank overflowed, the price of all of that domestic milk went down too! So even though we did not lose domestic consumption, we lost price because of excess milk production on the farm. The global market didn’t take it.”

“At the height of that boom, 17.5% of our total production was going global,” said Van Nortwick. “How much did global fall? It plummeted at least 50% when that bubble burst.”milk

“Since then, about half as much of our milk production in the United States is going global. What were the consequences? We had a 31-35% reduction in milk price nationwide for all milk—not just the excess milk that was going global—but all milk in America,” Van Nortwick noted.

Van Nortwick explained the dairy industry needs a sure approach to manage increased prices at a viable profit level. There must be a dramatic decrease of milk in the tank.

Van Nortwick offered several ways to tackle it, including a buyback program that donates milk products to churches and food banks across America. “Robin Berg, a dairy producer, came forward and said, ‘There are two ways to attack this: We can be market-responsive with milk production on the farm or we can go to the other end after it has been manufactured and sitting in storage, and the inventory is rising to the point where it is beginning to depress the price of milk paid to me (the producer). We could go in with dollars that we have set aside and saved, and we can remove that inventory, to help maintain a viable, profitable price for producers.”

Further describing the scenario, Van Nortwick said, “We have prevented milk from spilling on the floor because dumping is not a solution, it is a lose-lose plan. Get it manufactured and be ready on the other end.”

“Food insecurity is kind of the new insecurity,” he declared. “There are 49 million people in America who are underserved and have food deficiencies in their lives all the time.”

“What are we doing about it?” asked Van Nortwick. Feeding America, food banks and churches across this country have the infrastructure not only to take it in and house it, but also to immediately distribute it. Feeding America, a network of food banks, is leading the fight against hunger in communities nationwide and serves 46.5 million Americans in need.

Van Nortwick went on, “There is a sign on a little church in our neck of the woods, ‘Free Food-Saturday.’ So apparently, they are going to have a free distribution of food. That infrastructure is already in place! Give them the commodities they need to feed the 49 million people. Have it removed [from the market supply]. We will pay for it and donate it to them. They pick it up. They’ll even transport it. They will pay to move the products where they need to be distributed to the people who need the food.”

Feeding America is onboard and wants to do it, according to Van Nortwick. “Our people have met with their people who said they can take all that we can provide.”

Readers can learn more about Dairy Pricing and the goal of becoming more Market Responsive with their milk production on the farm by visiting or

2021-05-12T11:17:14-07:00February 1st, 2016|

WUD: Yes on Federal Milk Marketing Order

Continued Coverage on Milk Hearing

WUD: Yes on Federal Milk Marketing Order

Hearing in Clovis is the Super Bowl for California Dairy Producers

By Charmayne Hefley, Associate Editor


Anja Raudabaugh, CEO of Western United Dairymen, which represents half of the dairies in California, is closely watching the USDA special hearing to evaluate four proposals to convert California’s State Marketing Order to the Federal Milk Marketing Order (FMMO).

On September 22, in Clovis, Raudabaugh said, “This is an historic day. It is like a Super Bowl for California dairy producer. We welcome the opportunity for fair prices and better prices for California dairy producers, and that is what we are to support today. We are hoping to get better opportunities for our producers.”

“We are going to be testifying in support of the Cooperatives Proposal,” said Raudabaugh.

The dairy cooperatives – California Dairies Inc., Land O’ Lakes, and Dairy Farmers of America – say a federal pricing structure would fix the inequity that exists between the state’s dairy farmers and the rest of the nation.

Raudabaugh said the industry will need to see what the USDA actually delivers in terms of a federal order. “We have a proposal that we’d like to see happen,” she said. “It all depends on what the ultimate outcome is. We will review it with our membership at that time.”

It could take up to a year for the USDA to issue its proposal.


Western United Dairymen

2016-05-31T19:27:08-07:00October 2nd, 2015|

WIFSS Animals in Disasters Courses Piloted in Sonoma

2015 WIFSS Animals in Disaster Course Series

Source: Chris Brunner; UC Davis Western Institute for Food Safety and Security


Without coordinated response, awareness and resources, those animals left behind in a natural or man-made disaster most often do not survive. The Western Institute for Food Safety and Security (WIFSS) offers a series of Animals in Disasters courses that help prepare first responders and community members for animal-related emergencies.

WIFSS instructors, Tracey Stevens, deputy director, Animals in Disasters Project, and Dr. Michael Payne, dairy Ooutreach coordinator, piloted two new Department of Homeland Security Animals in Disasters courses this summer in Sonoma, California.

Class participants in “Emergency Animal Sheltering: Veterinary Considerations” learned skills and knowledge on how to establish an emergency animal shelter, and how to safely shelter and reunify animals that have been displaced during a disaster. In the “First Responder Guidelines for All Hazards Large Animal Emergency Evacuation” class, emergency personnel were provided instruction on safe approaches to emergency evacuation of large animals.

First responders, county officials, animal services personnel, veterinarians and other individuals can look forward to the 2015 WIFSS Animals in Disaster Course series which, in addition to the two courses above, will include:

  • Guidelines for Establishing an Emergency Animal Shelter: Veterinary Considerations – CE approved
  • Loose Livestock, Injured Wildlife and Humane Euthanasia of Animals for First Responders
  • First Responder Guidelines for Equine Emergencies – Level 1
  • Veterinarian Integration into Multi-Agency Emergency Equine Rescue and Disaster Response – CE approved

View WIFSS Animals in Disasters for announcements of course dates and registration information.

2021-05-12T11:17:15-07:00October 1st, 2014|

Secretary Ross Joins Elementary School Students to Experience Mobile Dairy Classroom

Source: Tammy Anderson-Wise, CEO Dairy Council of California

Earlier this month, CDFA Secretary Karen Ross joined students at Sacramento’s Pacific Elementary School for a visit from the Mobile Dairy Classroom, where an instructor shared fun facts like: cows have built-in fly swatters, and milk is warm when it comes out of the udder.

As the original farm to school program in California, Mobile Dairy Classroom has brought a bit of the dairy farm to schools across the state since the 1930s.

To help children better appreciate where their milk and milk products come from, the free assemblies provided by the Dairy Council of California teach children about agriculture and cows, healthy eating from all five food groups, and how to lead healthy, active lifestyles.

Mobile Dairy Classroom assemblies augment the Dairy Council of California’s classroom nutrition education lessons that are also free to schools as part of the dairy industry’s commitment to community health.

With six Mobile Dairy Classroom units across California, 400,000 students each year have the chance to make a personal connection with a cow and a calf, and better understand where their milk comes from.

Furthermore, the assemblies allow for a better appreciation for the role of the dairy farmer and milk processor in providing healthy food and why milk and milk products are an essential part of an overall balanced diet with foods from all five food groups.

2016-10-18T16:10:11-07:00May 20th, 2014|
Go to Top