Keeping the California Dairy Industry Afloat

The Necessity of Keeping the California Dairy Industry Competitive

 

By Brian German, Associate Broadcaster

 

 

Anthony Raimondo, an attorney with 15 years of experience working with farmers and farm labor contractors, is concerned the California government is placing the state’s agricultural industry at an economic disadvantage compared to other states. Raimondo used the California dairy industry as a prime example in which arbitrary in-state legislation is giving other states an advantage.
dairy cows

 

“The state government tells the dairy farmer how much they get to charge for milk,” explained Raimondo. “They have now raised minimum wage and overtime, with AB-1066 becoming law, but they do not tie any of that [added cost] to the milk price. Farmers will lose money,” he said.

 

“The California dairy industry is still fighting to be a part of the USDA’s Federal Milk Marketing Order (FMMO),” Raimondo continued. “But until that happens, the added costs are causing many California dairymen to weigh their options.”

 

Increasing government regulation is making it difficult for California dairies to compete with other states, Wisconsin in particular. Raimondo elaborated, “For many years, Wisconsin’s milk production was on the decline and California’s milk production was on the rise; that trend has now reversed. Wisconsin is now on the rise again and California is on the decline because our dairies can’t make it with the level of regulation and the level of cost,” he said.

 

“Some dairies have reduced hours to keep costs low,” said Raimondo. “Other dairies are closing either because they are going out of business or because they are moving to places like Idaho and Texas where the milk price is better and the cost profile is more favorable.”

 

The move to a FMMO would help even the playing field for California dairies. Raimondo warned there is a lot at stake if nothing is done to lower milk production costs in the number one Ag state. “We are going to lose a segment of agriculture that is 100% family farms. Family farming is one of those things that is precious to our state, and it can’t be brought back once it’s gone,” Raimondo said.

California Depends on National Dairy Month

National Dairy Month Encourages Americans to Eat More Cheese

By Patrick Cavanaugh, Farm News Director

Across the country, National Dairy Month will be celebrated during the month of June to promote the consumption of dairy products. Though California is the number one dairy state, California dairy farmers have been experiencing a decline in dairy production amidst high labor costs, competition from other states and declining profit.

Founded in 1937 as National Milk Month with the goal of increasing milk consumption to stabilize the dairy surplusthe holiday was renamed National Dairy Month to encompass all dairy products.

Anja Raudabaugh, CEO of Western United Dairymen
Anja Raudabaugh, CEO of Western United Dairymen

Anja Raudabaugh, CEO of Western United Dairymen in Modesto, Calif., is hopeful that celebrating National Milk Month will educate more consumers about the health benefits of diary products, increase dairy consumption opportunities, open more markets and enable the lagging dairy industry in California to better compete with other states.

States such as South Dakota and Wisconsin have ramped up their milk production significantly, which has stressed California producers to even the gap. According to Raudabaugh, the term oversupply doesn’t necessarily apply to the dairy conditions in this state. She remarked, “We’re actually in a 17-month decline at the moment, which is the longest decline [in milk production] we have ever been in.”

The dairy industry has managed to be very competitive with wages, another stressor, but the high labor costs are hurting production companies. “As things get more and more competitive globally,” said Raudaubaugh, “we are going to continue to struggle to figure out how those margins play out.”

“The margin is going to continue to shrink, especially as wages get more and more competitive,” Raudaubaugh observed. “Being a worker on a dairy farm is certainly very wage-competitive throughout the agricultural industry. We cannot keep workers at anything less than about $16 or $15 an hour as it is, so it’s a good time to be a worker in the dairy industry. It’s a good craft and skill to have if you become a milker.”Real California Cheese Logo

Given Western United Dairymen’s mission to promote and administer programs and policies aimed at maintaining the longevity of the dairy industry on the West Coast, and as the milk industry struggles and continues to face tough times, Raudabaugh has a solution: “Eat more cheese.”

Enter: National Cheese Day every June 4! According to the California Milk Advisory Board website and California Department of Food and Agriculture (CDFA) 2014 data, California is the #2 cheese producing state—right behind Wisconsin—and the #1 producer of Monterey Jack cheese. An amazing 43% of California’s cow’s milk is used to make California cheese, which is produced by more than 50 California cheesemakers.

Even beyond cheese, Raudabaugh said, “There is a tremendous amount of diversity in the way people have exposure to dairy products they don’t even know about. There are yogurts and sour creams, ice creams, and whey products.”  She believes market sectors should understand more about the dairy products consumers are exposed to every day to increase not only more milk consumption, but higher-value dairy as well.

“The diversification of the product line is really what has kept us in business,” reflects Raudabaugh, “It’s what keeps us looking to the horizon and looking to the future optimistically, even in the face of some pretty bad milk prices right now.”

Remember California dairy producers, particularly, this monthNational Dairy Month, and try a new dairy product. And discover a new cheese tomorrow, June 4, National Cheese Day!

California Leopold Conservation Award® Seeks Nominees

SAN FRANCISCO, Calif. – (April 28, 2015), the California Farm Bureau Federation and Sustainable Conservation are accepting applications for the $10,000 California Leopold Conservation Award. The award honors California farmers, ranchers and other private landowners who demonstrate outstanding stewardship and management of natural resources.

“The Leopold Conservation Award celebrates the people and places where innovative and creative thinking and experimentation are taking place,” said Judith Redmond of Full Belly Farm, recipient of the 2014 Leopold Conservation Award. “If you or a friend include conservation in your daily decision making – I hope you’ll submit a nomination. It’s okay to brag about good land stewardship.”

“Good intentions and luck take no farmer down the road to profitability and improved land health. Leopold Conservation Award recipients epitomize the creativity, drive and heartfelt conservation commitment it takes,” said Sand County Foundation President Brent Haglund.

Given in honor of renowned conservationist Aldo Leopold, the Leopold Conservation Award inspires other landowners by example and provides a visible forum where farmers, ranchers and other private landowners are recognized as conservation leaders. In his influential 1949 book, “A Sand County Almanac,” Leopold called for an ethical relationship between people and the land they own and manage, which he called “an evolutionary possibility and an ecological necessity.”

“California’s future gets brighter only if we all do our part,” said Sustainable Conservation Executive Director Ashley Boren. “The Leopold Conservation Award celebrates those deserving, but often overlooked, landowner heroes who do their part every day to steward our environment in ways that benefit people and the planet. The Leopold Conservation Award is proud to have recognized a diverse range of agricultural operations over nearly a decade – including CSA, dairy, rice, vegetable and tree crop farmers, as well as cattle ranchers.”

“The Leopold Conservation Award recognizes unique yet replicable strategies a farmer or rancher has developed in managing their land, to be the best steward of the natural resources on their farm or ranch. California farmers and ranchers are the most productive in the world and are trendsetters at maximizing the fullest potential of their land to produce food and other agricultural products with the least environmental impacts,” said California Farm Bureau Federation President Paul Wenger.

Nominations must be postmarked by July 10, 2015, and mailed to Leopold Conservation Award c/o Sustainable Conservation, 98 Battery Street, Suite 302, San Francisco, CA 94111. The 2015 California Leopold Conservation Award will be presented in December at the California Farm Bureau Federation’s Annual Meeting in Reno.

The California Leopold Conservation Award is possible thanks to generous contributions from many organizations, including The Nature Conservancy, American AgCredit, the Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation, DuPont Pioneer and The Mosaic Company.

ABOUT THE LEOPOLD CONSERVATION AWARD

The Leopold Conservation Award is a competitive award that recognizes landowner achievement in voluntary conservation. The award consists of a crystal award depicting Aldo Leopold and $10,000. Sand County Foundation presents Leopold Conservation Awards in California, Colorado, Kansas, Kentucky, Nebraska, South Dakota, Texas, Utah, Wisconsin and Wyoming.

ABOUT SAND COUNTY FOUNDATION

Sand County Foundation is a non-profit conservation organization dedicated to working with private landowners to advance the use of ethical and scientifically sound land management practices that benefit the environment. www.sandcounty.net

ABOUT CALIFORNIA FARM BUREAU FEDERATION

The California Farm Bureau Federation works to protect family farms and ranches on behalf of more than 74,000 members statewide and as part of a nationwide network of more than 6.2 million Farm Bureau members.

ABOUT SUSTAINABLE CONSERVATION

Sustainable Conservation helps California thrive by uniting people to solve the toughest challenges facing our land, air and water. Since 1993, it has brought together business, landowners and government to steward the resources that we all depend on in ways that make economic sense. Sustainable Conservation believes common ground is California’s most important resource.—-

Mana Mostatabi | Digital Marketing & Communications Strategist

98 Battery Street, Suite 302 | San Francisco, CA 94111

(415) 977-0380 x350 | http://www.suscon.org