The hearing to consider the establishment of a Federal Milk Marketing Order in California kicked off this week in Clovis with more than 100 people in attendance, including farmers, cooperative and processing representatives and USDA personnel.
Yesterday’s start to the hearing was taken up by procedural issues and instructions from Jill Clifton, the presiding administrative law judge. The hearing is expected to take several weeks as four separate proposals for the California order have been submitted. These include a joint submission from the three major cooperatives in California: California Dairies, Inc., Land O’Lakes and Dairy Farmers of America and others from the Dairy Institute of California, the California Producer-Handler Association, and Ponderosa Dairy.
Yesterday morning, USDA economist Amanda Sterneck described the economic analysis USDA has completed on the four proposals. She also, for the first time, described the economic model that was used to complete the analysis.
In an unusual twist to a Federal Order hearing, Judge Clifton has asked each of the four groups submitting a proposal to present opening statements. Those opening statements could begin yet today.
One potential hiccup to the proceeding could be a government shutdown if Congress cannot agree to a budget by next Wednesday, the end of the 2015 fiscal year. To restart the Federal Order hearing, USDA would have to publish a notice in the Federal Register, which could delay the restart of the hearing by several days once the Federal government again starts operating normally, says Bob Yonkers, chief economist with the International Dairy Foods Association.