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California Legislator Calls for Quick Action to Stem Dairy Crisis

June 3, 2013
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AB 31 author Pan says the state lost 105 dairy farms last year; price adjustment needed immediately to prevent more dairy closures.

Source: Western United Dairymen Weekly Update

California Assemblyman Richard Pan (D-Sacramento) last week renewed his appeal to lawmakers and stakeholders to come together quickly to prevent more of California’s endangered dairy farms from going out of business.

Pan acknowledged that the California Department of Food and Agriculture (CDFA) and lawmakers have been discussing structural changes to the state milk pricing system. But he warned that a price adjustment is needed immediately to prevent the shuttering of more family dairies.

"I sincerely appreciate the work that my legislative colleagues and the California Department of Food and Agriculture have put in for our family dairy farmers who are losing their livelihoods," Pan said, "However, it is important to note that this issue cannot be tabled for a later date. The discussion between the stakeholders needs to continue. The longer we wait, the more devastating it becomes to California’s dairy industry, the rural economy and our heritage."

Under California’s current regulations, companies that make cheese pay dairy farmers far less for milk than they do in Wisconsin, Oregon, Washington and other states.

Pan’s first effort, AB 31, would have empowered CDFA to stabilize this flawed dairy cost structure. An amended version was held in committee last week with the admonition that talks continue.

"We have no time to spare; our state lost 105 dairy farms in just one year last year. We must work collaboratively and quickly to fix a broken system and ensure that California dairy farmers get a fair price for the milk they produce 365 days a year," Pan said.

California’s dairy industry has suffered more than $2 billion in losses in the past five years, forcing nearly 400 dairy farms in California out of business. The remaining 1,500 dairies are fighting for survival.

"These are family-run businesses that have been in our local communities for generations. Every single time a dairy is lost, a rural community takes a sharp hit to its economy," said Gary Conover Western United Dairymen’s director of government relations. "Time is of the essence. Our communities are depending on it."

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