(Clovis, Calif.) USDA held an information session about its proposed Federal Milk Marketing Order for California here on Feb. 22. Some 70 people including producers, processors, cooperative officials and government officials attended the half-day session, which was also webcast live in real time. Dana H. Coale, deputy administrator of dairy programs for USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service, headed the delegation of government officials which also included milk marketing administrators from the FMMOs in the West – Cory Hunter of the Southwest region and Bill Wise of the Arizona and Pacific Northwest region.
Coale said afterwards, “We had an excellent turnout… and we were able to present general information about how the Order would operate”
One significant difference, however, would be the continuation of the California quota program. The USDA plan proposes that milk quota held by dairy producers would remain and continue to be administered by the California Department of Food and Agriculture.
(AMS-USDA DAIRY OFFICIALS From left are Cory Hunter, Bill Wise and Erin Taylor)
While representatives of CDFA attended the meeting, they had not had any advanced opportunity to see the proposal, only able to initially review it since Feb. 14 when it was posted in the Federal Register.
CDFA’s Candance Gates said, “We are currently looking at our authority to administer the Calif. quota system.” She offered no prediction about when that review would be complete.
Administrator Coale explained that the rule making process expressly forbids USDA to have any off the record contact with “parties of interest.” Those parties include the cooperatives and the dairy processor organization along with CDFA.
Coale said that CDFA is invited to submit its comments along with those of the rest of the industry by May 15.
Dairy producer and Western United Dairyman president Frank Mendonsa said that much more work will have to be done to analyze how the FMMO would actually affect producer pay prices. And he pointed out that a significant part of that equation will be determined by how CDFA will operate the quota program.
Administrator Coale outlined a possible timeline. Following the comment period, USDA will evaluate all submitted information and then issue a final recommendation in the fall of 2017. There will then be a series of informational meetings with dairymen, processors and other interested parties attending. Finally, the proposed FMMO will be put to a vote of dairymen.
(DANA H. COALE Deputy Administrator, Dairy AMS / USDA)
If two-thirds of the dairymen voting or those dairymen representing two-thirds of the production approve, then the Order will go into effect. Cooperatives qualified with Federal Orders will be allowed to block vote for their members. After approval, there would be an estimated three to six months for a transition from the current state order to the new Federal Order.