Quota has been a real sensitive topic of contention over the past year for California dairy producers, and things seemed to really escalate right up to the World Ag Expo, when the United Dairy Families of California presented a five year plan to potentially terminate the California Quota Implementation Plan (QIP). Things slowed down with the onset of the global COVID-19 pandemic, and the industry turned their attention to adapting all the changes that accompanied it. However, following multiple attempts and petitions to order an immediate termination of QIP by a certain group of dairy producers, a quota hearing with CDFA finally occurred June 9-10th.
Of this two-day virtual meeting, Western United Dairies’ Economist Annie AcMoody reported the following:
The number of attendees fluctuated throughout the days, with a peak around 190 participants at one time. The total number of people who logged in at least for a little while is likely higher as people came and went during the proceeding. An Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) presided over the hearing and only he and a representative of the Attorney General’s Office were allowed to ask questions of presenters. Technical issues and background noises ranging from side conversations to lunch orders were an issue throughout the process, causing interruptions through many presentations.
The hearing started with a presentation from Chip English (Stop QIP’s attorney) focusing on why there should be a producer referendum under Chapter 3.5. A presentation from an economist that prepared a report for them, Dr. Sundig, followed. Dr. Sundig focused on his analysis of why he thinks dairy farmers anticipated quota to go away (even before the petitions and the FMMO). The second team to take the virtual floor was Save QIP. Their attorney, Niall McCarthy, discussed the importance of quota and why a petition on Chapter 3.5 shouldn’t have any effect on the QIP. The economic consequences of eliminating quota were discussed further by an economist hired by the team, Lon Hatamiya. The third and last registered organization was United Dairy Families of California (UDFC). The group’s attorney, Megan Oliver Thompson, highlighted why a petition based on Chapter 3.5 is not the appropriate vehicle to get to an elimination of the QIP via referendum. Dino Giacomazzi, a representative of UDFC, spoke next to explain the process his organization went through, with the objective of arriving at a broad industry consensus. Most of you may recall the many meetings and surveys held last summer through early 2020 as part of this process. The three largest coops (CDI, DFA and LOL) as well as the three state trade associations (CDC, MPC and WUD) and Stop QIP actively participated in the process. As a result of the analysis and surveys, Dr. Bozic unveiled the survey–favored concept (a 5–year sunset) at the Farm Show in Tulare. Following that, UDFC sought signatures for a petition, which they delivered to the Secretary just days before the StopQIP hearing (read the announcement from the UDFC below for more details). CDFA has 90 days to verify whether the petition vas valid.
Once organizations were done, individual commenters were allowed a maximum of 5 minutes each, which is not a very long time for such a complicated issue and when there are interruptions due to attendee muting issues. Passion and conviction were key features of dairy farmers’ testimony from both sides of the aisle. There is a lot at stake and the ten- sion was palpable during the full two–day process
We added much information relevant to the proceedings at this link: westernuniteddairies.com/quota/ , including written statements submitted to CDFA. Now that the ALJ has heard all interested parties during the hearing and received all written statements, there is a ten–day period to file post–hearing briefs for those who requested it. After that, the ALJ will have to come to a decision on whether this should move to a producer referendum.
California Dairy Organization Submits Quota Reform Petition to CDFA
The United Dairy Families of California (Dairy Families) submitted a petition to reform California’s historic quota program to the California Department of Food and Agriculture (CDFA). The petition outlines a five–year sunset proposal, which was the result of a process that included input from hundreds of California dairy producers over several months of regional meetings. The organization facilitated an inclusive and transparent three–phase process led by Dr. Marin Bozic and Matt Gould that narrowed 11 initial reform proposals down to one. The Dairy Families’ petition calls for CDFA to bring the producer–generated idea to a referendum. “Dairy Families has worked diligently over the last year to gather input and elicit ideas from the entire producer community. We believe this petition represents the will of the dairy industry and the proper course of action would be to bring it to a vote of California Dairy Producers,” said Dairy Families Executive Committee Member Travis Kamper of Riverdale, CA. The plan would phase out the quota program over five years. The sunset plan proposes:
● A Quota Implementation Plan sunset with the termination date of March 1, 2025
● Equalized regional quota adjusters of $1.43/cwt for all counties
● A recommendation that the plan be implemented by a producer referendum.
Dairy Families announced the sunset plan on February 11 at the Phase 4 meeting held during the World Ag Expo in Tulare, CA. The Dairy Families’ process was supported by the state’s three major dairy co–ops, California Dairies, Inc., Dairy Farmers of America, and Land O’Lakes, Inc., as well as the three trade groups, California Dairy Campaign, Milk Producers Council, and Western United Dairies. Stop QIP also participated in the process. UDFC formed in early 2019 in an effort to bring unity to an increasingly divided dairy community.