AB 31 Aims to Make California Dairy Farms More Competitive

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Assemblyman Richard Pan (D-Sacramento) has proposed new legislation to remedy on what he sees as unfair cost-setting scheme threatening to force hundreds of California’s local, family-run dairies to shut down. Assembly Bill 31 will allow the state Agriculture Secretary to change what is perceived as a flawed dairy cost structure allowing cheese makers to pay far less for milk in California than in other states.

“This legislation will fix an unfair set of rules that allows cheese producers to enjoy comfortable profits while dairy farmers risk losing everything,” said Gary Conover, Director of Government Relations for Western United Dairymen. “AB 31 will level the playing field for dairy farmers, protect California’s spot as the nation’s top milk producer, and preserve our rich history of supporting family-run farms.”

According to proponents of the bill, 387 dairy farms have closed in California in the past five years, and California’s remaining 1,500 family dairies are fighting for survival, strapped with soaring feed costs and shackled by an unfair cost structure within the state’s milk marketing order.

“It is good business for California to protect our homegrown dairy producers and make sure they can compete,” said Conover. 

Opponents of the bill say the proposal would raise the price of milk used to manufacture cheese within the state and put further strain on the economy. Opponents also claim if AB 31 is passed, the State of Wisconsin, a cheese juggernaut in the US, would increase their cheese market share by $200 million according to the Wisconsin State Journal. 

AB 31 is set to be heard in the California State Assembly Committee on Agriculture on May 1st, 2013 at 1:30pm.