BY CRAIG W. ANDERSON
States have booths at the World Ag Expo in Tulare and recruiters from Wyoming, New Mexico, Idaho, Iowa, Kansas, Arizona, Montana, Nevada, Texas, South Dakota and South Carolina, to name a few, encourage any and all California dairy farmers at the Expo to leave the Golden State and do business in a state that's friendly to business: theirs.
Dairy farmers are generally considered to be "good guys, so states want dairies to come in," said Jim Howie, director of dairy development for Southern Marketing Agency, Inc. He also said other states don't have the ultra strict environmental, water, and air regulations as does California.
Cows have great value
"Every dollar we earn is rolled back into the economy more than any other commodity," said Jack Hamm, dairy farmer near Lodi and SJFB first vice president. "Other states see this, want to attract business and they realize dairies are worth the effort."
Hamm, added, "Even Wisconsin, the big dairy state, is recruiting. I received a personal phone call from a dairy industry representative asking me about moving there."
The "we want you to move to our state" message is one that resonates in California, a state that is "a regulatory nightmare for farmers," said Marsh. "There are regulations here that you don't have in any other state or anywhere else in the world."
"In almost every other state the process of permitting and operating a dairy within established parameters is much easier than it is here," said Hamm.
Marsh said dairies have definitely gone to Texas, New Mexico, Idaho, Wyoming and Colorado. "In fact," he said, "Leprino Cheese built a new cheese plant in Greely, Colo., and the state worked with Leprino to facilitate a smooth transition and operation."
In California, regulations can produce weird conflicts; for example, methane digesters that reduce dairy waste, lower greenhouse gas emissions, cut air pollutants, and can improve ground and surface water quality, reduce odor, produce renewable energy and create organic fertilizer were promoted heavily, but they're so expensive – well over a million dollars each – that few dairy farmers can afford them.
Digester costs keep rising because state agencies keep issuing new regulations that add costs to the machine – such as requiring the installation of catalytic converters at a cost of more than $200,000 – and since the permitting of digesters became required, the building of new digesters has essentially stopped.
If the economy stays down, there will be more incentives to move, Marsh said. "More economically viable states can offer tax incentives, infrastructure improvements and more demand for dairy products. Other states also have legislatures far more agrarian, appreciative and knowledgeable about agriculture than California's legislature."
California at rock bottom
The report said California is slipping "deeper into the ninth circle of business hell. Each year, the evidence that businesses are leaving California or avoiding locating there because of the high cost of doing business due to excessive state taxes and stringent regulations."
According to Spectrum Locations Consultants, 254 businesses left the state, a 26 percent increase over 2010.
Dairies and agriculture in general, are feeling boxed in by California's oppressive business climate and are finding it increasingly difficult to function in an environment of escalating regulations and increased paperwork, along with more inspections, reviews, fines and mandated reporting. The only way out might be to pack up and move to an ag- friendly state.