AB 31 passage forces stakeholders to continue working together
May 3, 2013 -- Assemblymember Richard Pan’s (D-Sacramento) AB 31, which casts a safety net for California’s dairy farmers, brought nearly 100 dairy farmers to the State Capitol on Wednesday for a hearing in the Assembly Agriculture Committee. Many of the dairy farmers in attendance have farms going back five and six generations. All of them said the same thing—California dairy farmers no longer talk about growth, they talk about survival.
“My dairy farm is surviving because I have generations of equity,” said Turlock dairyman and former WUD president Ray Souza. “However, even for those of us who have been in the dairy business for generations, the last five years have been the toughest.”
The committee voted 6-0 to approve the bill. The bill’s original language has been removed. That language would have set the California Class 4b dry whey factor at no less than 80% of the federal order Class III whey factor. In its place is “intent” language that the Chair said was intended to get the issues addressed by new policies developed jointly by dairy producers, processors, and the California Department of Food and Agriculture as well as the CDFA Dairy Future Task Force.
Committee chairwoman Susan Talamantes Eggman and others expressed hope that producers and processors would come up with a formula on which they could all agree. The deadline to move policy proposals to the Senate is May 21, giving proponents about three weeks to develop new bill language.
Western United CEO Michael Marsh was generally upbeat after the hearing, expressing hope that the bill will bring processors to the table. “What this is going to do is allow the bill to move. The challenge is the cheese processors have refused to negotiate with us for over 10 years, despite our repeated attempts to dialogue. The cheesemakers have to negotiate with us in good faith; hopefully they heard the Chair’s direction loud and clear.” he said.
Talamantes-Eggman said pointedly that she wanted individuals to stop talking about opposition. “We’re all part of the same system,” she said. The Chair emphasized that she wants both short-term and long-term solutions for dairy farmers in California.
The bill is sponsored by Western United Dairymen. Other bill supporters include California Dairies, Inc., Land O’ Lakes, Dairy Farmers of America, Milk Producers Council, California Dairy Campaign, California Grain and Feed Association, California Farm Bureau Federation and California Cotton Ginners and Growers Association.
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