Complex Process to Determine Fate of California Dairy Quota Continues

Brian German Dairy & Livestock, Industry

The California Department of Food and Agriculture (CDFA) recently held a virtual hearing related to one of several initiatives looking to make changes to the California dairy quota program. Several industry groups have been advocating for vastly different approaches to how the state should address the Quota Implementation Plan (QIP). Altogether there are three distinct actions being taken to effectively end the QIP in California.

California Dairy Quota - QIP

“That makes it a little bit confusing because they’re all looking at quota, but they are different initiatives happening at the same time,” said Annie AcMoody, Economist for Western United Dairies. “At least we were able to have the hearing despite all the measures where people are not supposed to gather in large groups.”

The hearing was based on a petition from the STOP QIP group, which seeks to have a referendum to eliminate Chapter 3.5 of the Food and Agriculture Code that grants authority for the QIP. The threshold for Chapter 3.5 is a simple majority of 51 percent. As the industry awaits a ruling from the judge other efforts to address the California dairy quota are also working through the administrative process. “The second initiative that is at play is the STOP QIP group is also suing CDFA basically saying the quota plan is not legal. That court date has been set for July 28,” AcMoody explained.

Another group called SAVE QIP has also developed in response to all the industry activity, which supports CDFA in maintaining the current program. A third group, United Dairy Families of California (UDFC), has also developed a plan which includes a five-year sunset of the QIP. UDFC recently submitted a petition to CDFA in hopes the plan will go to a referendum. A referendum under the UDFC plan would require a supermajority vote to move forward.

“CDFA is now reviewing whether that petition is valid or not because you need to have 25 percent of milk producers’ signatures on there to be a valid petition,” AcMoody noted. “If that’s valid then it would move to a referendum if nothing else has happened with the other two initiatives before that.”

There seem to be varying levels of support for each of the different plans for the California dairy quota system. Proponents of the UDFC plan have suggested that the five-year sunset of the program is the most balanced approach to the issue of quota. Producers across the state will be closely monitoring the situation over the coming weeks, as very different outcomes are at stake as the process moves forward.

“I think there’s a lot of pieces that need to fall into place at the right time for things to move to a referendum on the petition that was just submitted [by UDFC],” said AcMoody. “But if it does – and nothing else has happened on the other side with the other STOP QIP initiatives – then we could have an industry vote on that.”

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Brian German

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Ag News Director, AgNet West