California milk cap.
June 15, 2020

California Holds Long-Anticipated Quota Hearing

 |  By: Jim Dickrell

About 70 California dairy farmers testified in last week’s twice-postponed hearing on the state’s dairy quota program. Most of the farmer testimony centered on how the quota affected their operations.

At stake is whether the California Department of Food and Agriculture (CDFA) will hold a producer referendum on the state’s quota program.

STOP QIP, a group of anti-quota farmers, had obtained enough signatures this spring to require CDFA to hold the hearing. The hearing was postponed twice due to the COVID-19 outbreak, but was held virtually June 9 and 10. At issue is whether CDFA failed to follow regulatory procedures in setting up the quota program in 2017, following the creation of a Federal Milk Marketing Order in the state. (Previously, the state milk order had regulated both minimum milk prices and the quota program, which originated back in the 1960s.)

STOP QIP argues that the new quota program was procedurally done incorrectly and is thus legally invalid and should be set aside. A new group, SAVE QIP, also made up of dairy farmers, argues otherwise.

A third group, United Dairy Families of California, also testified. They submitted a petition June 7 to continue the quota program until March 1, 2025, to give dairy farmers who currently own quota time to adjust their operations.

“The amount of material that was submitted into the hearing record is huge, but it seems to me that the Judge’s decision will really come down to how he interprets the law,” says Geoff Vanden Heuvel, director of regulator and economic affairs for the California Milk Producers Council.

The findings could take several months. Even then, the Judge will simply make a recommendation to the CDFA Secretary, Karen Ross. She will make the final decision whether a referendum will be held.

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