California Federal Order Process Could Move Forward in One to Four Months—Or Not
A conference call yesterday hosted by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) laid out the agency’s plan to move forward with the pending Federal Milk Marketing Order in California.
The whole process was put on hold February 6 when a Supreme Court case questioned the legitimacy of Administrative Law Judges who officiate over hearings on behalf of federal agencies. If the Supreme Court rules these judges must be appointed by the President rather than simply hired by federal agencies, the California FMMO hearing record could be voided. If that happens, the entire process would have to start over.
To avoid this, USDA is hiring a judicial officer to review the whole hearing record. “And by reviewing the whole record, he will need to look at the whole thing word by word: the transcripts and the exhibits,” says Annie AcMoody, director of economic analysis for Western United Dairymen.
If he determines the record is complete, USDA will be able to move forward with the process. “Despite the documentation-heavy record, USDA thinks this new road will delay the process by one month at best, or four at most,” says AcMoody. If all goes well, pending a positive producer vote, a California federal order could be in place by November 2018.
However, if the judicial officer finds gaps in the hearing record, he could seek additional feedback. If he does so, there will also have to be a comment period on the new information submitted. That could push implementation back to February 2019.