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California Congressman Introduces Federal Milk Marketing Order Act

March 25, 2013
By: Catherine Merlo, Dairy Today Western and Online Editor google + 
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Congressman David Valadao proposes legislation that would allow California dairy producers to petition USDA for a federal order plus allow them to keep the state’s quota program.

U.S. Congressman David G. Valadao (R-Calif.) introduced bipartisan legislation March 22 addressing California's struggling dairy industry.

The California Federal Milk Marketing Order Act would allow California dairy producers to petition the U.S. Secretary of Agriculture to be considered to join the Federal Milk Marketing Order.

The proposed legislation is Valadao’s first bill. The newly elected congressman is a dairy producer from Hanford, Calif., in the heart of the Central Valley. Valadao represents the 21st Congressional District, which includes Kings County and portions of Fresno, Tulare, and Kern counties.

Under the current California pricing system, said Valadao, dairy producers throughout the state have closed down, resulting in lost revenue and jobs.?

"Dairy is California's largest agriculture industry," he said. "I’m proud to have introduced this bipartisan proposal as my first piece of legislation in the U.S. House of Representatives. Ultimately, even with this legislation, California dairymen will have the final say regarding their own pricing system. I look forward to working with my colleagues in Congress on this and other issues important to Central Valley agriculture."

The legislation, known as H.R. 1396, has already received strong support from the California Congressional Delegation. Original cosponsors include California congressmen Kevin McCarthy, Jim Costa, Jeff Denham, Doug LaMalfa and Devin Nunes. The Federal Milk Marketing Act has also received widespread support from dairy farmers across the state.

Milk Producers Council, a California dairy organization which has supported the bill, said Friday it greatly appreciates Valadao’s leadership on the Federal Milk Marketing Order (FMMO) issue.

"While California dairy farmers currently have the opportunity to petition USDA for the establishment of a California Order in the FMMO system, current law does not allow USDA to account for the ‘quota program’ that California has operated the past 40-plus years," said MPC’s Rob Vandenheuvel. "This has been a sticking point in our previous discussions about joining the FMMO system. H.R. 1396 would specifically address that issue, allowing USDA to craft a California FMMO that recognizes the state-run quota program."

Specifically, the bill states, "the order covering California shall have the right to reblend and distribute order receipts to recognize quota value."

The process of petitioning USDA with a proposal creating a California FMMO, scheduling and conducting a USDA hearing on the matter, and ultimately putting the final result before the dairy farmers for a vote (which would require a 2/3 majority for implementation) is a lengthy process, with many opportunities for input from dairy farmers and their representatives.

"H.R. 1396 wouldn’t change that process, but would give us the option to include in our petition a recognition of the state’s quota program and the ability to continue operating it, while participating in the FMMO system," Vandenheuvel said. "That’s the value of H.R. 1396: it provides us with additional options, while still maintaining our full control over whether or not to ultimately choose to accept the move to the FMMO system."

California dairy producers maintain they are losing hundreds of millions of dollars in revenue as a result of the lower prices in the state-run marketing order. They believe they would earn higher prices for their milk under an FMMO.

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RELATED TOPICS: Dairy, Policy, Marketing, Milk, USDA

 
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