December 17, 2013

Assemblyman Adam Gray:

Need to Stem the Tide of Dairies Going Under

(From Western United Dairymen)

The economic multiplier effect of the dairy industry is not just a statistic to Assemblyman Adam Gray (D-Merced). His grandfather started Merced Dairy Supply and his father Robert continued the business. Gray’s first job at the dairy supply store was washing storage barrels and loading feed bags, an experience that helped him learn about the local economy from the ground up.

Assemblyman Adam Gray (D-Merced

Discussing the economic crisis facing California dairy families, Gray told Western United Dairymen in an interview this week, “Dairy families are continuing to struggle and go out of business. As someone who represents a large dairy area, I am very concerned about the industry’s future.  We need to stem the tide of all these dairies folding and going under.”

Economic reports show that California's dairy industry contributed $63 billion in economic activity to the state. According to the California Milk Advisory Board, in 2008, the latest year for which figures are available, the dairy industry created a total of 443,574 jobs in California, approximately 3 percent of the total overall job production for the year. The 2008 report shows that for every single “on-the-farm” job, 22 additional “beyond-the-farm” jobs are created.

Gray testified at a CDFA hearing held in September in support a petition filed by WUD and other dairy producer groups for emergency price relief. His remarks focused on the economic impact to the communities that surround dairies. “I spoke about the economics of the issue and I spoke from the heart,” said Gray. “I know from growing up and working at a dairy supply business how many small businesses are supported by dairy. There are so many related businesses that depend on the success of dairies. In the absence of these dairies, you are going to see these businesses go under as well.”

When the CDFA issued its decision to extend the current temporary price relief for all classes of milk, there was disappointment expressed by dairy producers. Gray shares that sentiment. “My expectation was that they would take some action to create additional equity and stem the tide of all these dairies folding and going under.”

The task ahead is to educate legislators about the dairy industry and its economic factors, said Gray.  “I’m not sure there is clear path forward but I am going to be a tireless advocate for the dairy industry,” he said. “I am constantly educating my colleagues about the dairy industry and its complex pricing issues. There are so many who do not understand the industry and I am talking to them about the industry and its needs. But the need remains for additional education of state elected officials and dairy producers have an important role to play,” points out Gray.

“My best advice is for WUD members to help in educating legislators. WUD does a great job of advocating for its members. You have to be even more determined and more persistent but not just with valley legislators. We have put in whatever extra effort is needed to advocate for why we need a solution.”

Gray said he “absolutely” sees a need for Governor Brown to be involved in finding a solution to the industry’s pricing crisis. “Ultimately, he is the top executive and it is important that the governor be part of the solution.”

“Because of his family’s background in the dairy supply business, the personal nature of the dairy crisis hits him constantly,” said Gray. “Each and every month, people are on the brink of losing their family farm. Whole communities are being hurt. This is a real crisis with broad implications and we have to figure out a way to find a solution, either administratively or through legislation.”