By Craig W. Anderson 

San Joaquin County and California dairy farmers are getting used to marketing their milk under the new Federal Milk Marketing Order (FMMO) and said, Jack Hamm, past SJFB president and dairy farmer near Lodi, “It’s a different system than what we once had and one that we’re still learning.”

Hamm added, “This puts us on the same playing field as the rest of the nation, and our prices are getting better as well.”

Some FMMO facts…

According to the USDA Agricultural Marketing Service, the California Marketing Area (CMA) is one of 11 regional FMMO’s in the United States operating under a “common mission of helping to facilitate the efficient marketing of milk and dairy products.”

Some facts about the state’s FMMO:  The CMA Bulletin notes that in April, 1,008 producers were pooled under the order with an average daily delivery per producer of 72,095 pounds. The class prices were: Class I-$17.86 per 100 weight, Class II-$16.38, Class III-$15.96 and Class IV-$15.72.

Hamm said the FMMO will take some time to get up to speed and for the county’s dairy farmers to realize its full potential. It will take patience and cooperation but, he said, “We’ll get there as an industry. This is absolutely the best way to go.”

Terminating FMMO quota plan rejected 

Evidently a group of mostly dissident dairy farmers weren’t satisfied with the Quota Implementation Plan (QIP) and submitted a petition demanding it be eliminated from the FMMO. Quotas are a major part of the FMMO but the group filing the petition – Stop QIP – is apparently unconcerned about the effect their elimination would have on an already up and running FMMO.

“Without the retention of quotas in the new FMMO, it would not have passed the vote to inaugurate a Federal Milk Marketing Order for California,” said Lodi dairy farmer Hank Van Exel. “It’s disingenuous of Stop QIP to submit this petition. Dairy farmers and the industry had discussed and debated the FMMO and its QIP for two years. Where was that group then? For that matter where were they last year? Where were they when the votes were cast?”

The petition was submitted to the California Department of Food and Agriculture (CDFA) where the plan’s administrator had 90 days to validate it. The CDFA subsequently announced that 25 percent of the signatures were not valid which meant the threshold of valid signees had not been met and therefore the petition was not referred to the Producer Review Board for consideration.

 “Stop QIP’s petition had non-producers, people not associated in any way with the dairy industry, and other suspect signatures, on the petition,” Hamm said, adding, “The CDFA was right to throw it out.”

According to the CDFA only 243 signers were validated by the CDFA after those not admissible such as dairies out of business, Grade B shippers and other categories were eliminated. After adjusting for combined common ownerships, 197 signatories were valid, 51 short of what was needed to meet the 25 percent threshold.

The Stop QIP supporters severely jumped the gun with their petition, according to Hamm. “However, the United Dairy Families of California [a group opposing the petition] are willing to listen and look at potential changes to determine that they’ll be fair to everyone. The FMMO QIP also has holdover stuff to consider.”

Van Exel said, “This FMMO has a few surprises and there are elements that need to be worked out without affecting quotas. I think we all want to see the FMMO make us some money. That’s the heart of the issue. I wonder how many Stop QIP complainers sold their quotas and bought more cows.” 

He added, “It’s too bad we have this dissention from the Stop QIP group. There’s already enough dissention in ag.”

How often dissention could occur is open to question as there are no restrictions on when or by what group petitions to alter or eliminate QIP can submitted.