Dairymen wonder what's next after state denies milk price increase

Producers don't get the raise they were seeking
2013-10-25T06:30:00Z 2013-12-24T15:49:18Z Dairymen wonder what's next after state denies milk price increaseBy Seth Nidever Hanford Sentinel
October 25, 2013 6:30 am  • 

HANFORD — It hasn’t been a good week for dairy operators seeking a favorable change in California’s wholesale milk pricing formula.

The California Department of Food and Agriculture decided Tuesday not to grant a requested increase for milk made into cheese and whey. Milk producers were asking for 46 cents more per hundredweight of blended milk. Instead, CDFA Secretary Karen Ross took a 12.5 cent increase imposed this summer and extended it through June 2014.

That left widespread disappointment among local dairy operators who have struggled through extended losses dating back to 2009. The conditions have taken their toll on Kings County’s influential dairy industry, with 22 operations reportedly going out of business in 2012.

“Twelve cents is not really providing any value as far as price relief,” said Dino Giacomazzi, Kings County Farm Bureau president and a Hanford dairy operator. “We’re getting pennies when we need dollars.”

Dairymen accuse CDFA of being partial to big cheesemakers like Leprino Foods. CDFA officials say they are trying to balance the needs of both groups.

Some dairy farmers were especially discouraged by this week’s announcement because they thought they had an agreement with processors going into a CDFA hearing last month.

The tentative, informal deal to raise milk prices apparently collapsed, leaving a debate among producers about what steps to take next.

Most think something needs to be done to prevent more dairies from going belly up. The market is slowly improving, but not fast enough to make up for past losses.

“[This week’s] decision once again makes it clear that the only way to restore equity to milk pricing in California is by joining the federal milk marketing order system,” said Joe Augusto, president of the California Dairy Campaign based in Turlock.

A proposal sponsored earlier this year by Rep. David Valadao, R-Hanford, to allow producers to do that was part of a proposed farm bill package that died in Congress this year.

Producers are being paid at least $1-a-hundredweight less that they would be getting if they dropped out of the California system and joined a nationwide pricing mechanism known as the federal milk marketing order, according to CDC.

But not everybody is sold on joining a national pricing system run by the U.S. Agriculture Department from Washington, D.C.

“It’s the next best mousetrap,” said David Lemstra, who operates a Corcoran dairy with 2,400 milk cows. “It could be better than what we have currently, but I don’t know if it’s the answer. We’ve created in California a broken system.”

Lemstra wants pricing to be competitive with other states.

“CDFA is not going to do anything in the short term,” said Jamie Bledsoe, who finished clearing out the cows from his closed Riverdale dairy this week.

Giacomazzi wonders if dairy co-ops can could drop out of the state pricing scheme and come up with their own solution — a solution that has proved elusive in the complex world of government-managed dairy pricing.

“We need a more active process to get to a solution,” Giacomazzi said. “The producers and the processors are ultimately the ones that are going to have to figure this out.”

The reporter can be reached at 583-2432 and at snidever@hanfordsentinel.com. Follow him on Twitter @SethN_HS.

Copyright 2016 Hanford Sentinel. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

(3) Comments

  1. milkcows
    Report Abuse
    milkcows - October 29, 2013 9:20 am
    And we deserve are cut as we pay plenty in taxes and provide jobs to those who want to work, I don't receive welfare or free hand outs and the federal gov't finds many ways to help those so your are right where is mine I deserve it when stupid people make stupid laws that effect my business and send it into free fall ya I deserve my cut so the gov't made the mess they can fix it only if Rep. were in office so I will take my hand out and head to the bank just like all the others
  2. milkcows
    Report Abuse
    milkcows - October 29, 2013 9:13 am
    Can tell by your snarky remark that you are die hard LIBERAL. The state doesn't help the dairymen because they actually work for aliving not set up for hand outs. The state is just like any Liberal it is who ever gives them the most in donations that get the help. As for Dairymen who have seen in the last 5 years are more everything they have work for go down the drain don't have the funds to buy the LIberal Dems in the state. So they look for the federal gov't it might be cheaper.
  3. eastridge925
    Report Abuse
    eastridge925 - October 25, 2013 7:38 am
    Local dairymen are considering joining a "federal" milking program?? As soon as the "state" gov't doesn't do anything for you, you can always run to the Federal gov't for help. Now considering most are Rep, isn't this what they have been fighting against all this time. Isn't it they who say that the Federal Gov't is NOT the answer to all our problems. Funny once it hits your paycheck then its "where's my cut?"
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