The California Federal Order hearing came to a close last week after 40 days of testimony from dairy co-ops, processors and producer organizations. According to Dairy Today, the administrative proceedings will continue with more brief filings, issuance of a recommended decision, more comments and a final decision that will then be put to a vote of California dairy farmers. With a recommended decision not expected until late next year, the entire process could take another 18 months.
Dozens and dozens of witnesses testified on the four submitted proposals, and 194 exhibits were entered into the hearing record. Among those to testify were two dairymen from the Southeast; Everett Williams of Georgia and Richard Sparrow of Kentucky. Both producers testified on behalf of the dairy farmers of their state and respected dairy farmer organizations.
Their testimonies centered on USDA economic analysis projecting that the dairy co-op proposal could potentially lower blend prices in the three Southeast orders by as much as $0.26/cwt. from 2017-2024, which would make it more difficult to meet consumer demand for fluid milk in the Southeast. USDA analysis projects that the California Order will raise the California dairyman’s price by $1/cwt., which will lead to an increase in California milk production. This production increase is projected to lower prices in other areas of the country.
Collaboration of GA Milk Producers, the Kentucky Dairy Development Council and the Tennessee Dairy Producers Association allowed Southeast dairymen to testify on concerns about the potential economic impact of the proposed California Order on the Southeast milk market. These groups also wanted to request to the FMMA that if there are adverse consequences of California Order to the rest of the country, then USDA should be open to allow changes to other Federal Milk Marketing Orders.