Major Victory in California Dairy Civil War

News
07.29.2020

A decisive victory for small family dairy farms was won this week in what has been called a civil war in the California dairy industry.  In a proceeding before The California Department of Food and Agriculture, Administrative Law Judge Timothy J. Aspinwall issued a much-awaited decision on a petition that could have put hundreds of California family dairy farms out of business.  Fortunately for those farms, the administrative law judge ruled that the petition, which sought to eliminate California’s milk quota system was “not legally valid” and recommends that Secretary of Food and Agriculture Karen Ross deny the petition in its entirety.

The petition sought to terminate the 50-year-old California milk quota system—a huge asset for the California dairy industry that is worth hundreds of millions of dollars and owned by most of the state’s dairy farms, especially smaller family-run farms.  The decision is a huge win for California dairy farms that have invested their revenue to purchase quota, and whose survival hung in the balance.  As dozens of farmers testified at the hearing in June, terminating quota would have robbed them of their and their families’ decades of hard work seized one of their most valuable assets without paying them any compensation, forced them out of business, resulted in huge lay-offs, and thrown the state’s dairy industry into financial chaos.  Examples of the testimony are:

Terminating quota would be “financially catastrophic” and is a “matter of life or death for our dairy.”  – Maia Cipponeri, fourth-generation dairy farmer from Merced County

“If quota were suddenly terminated, I would be immediately plunged into severe debt that I could not pay . . . . In addition to financial ruin, this would ruin my son’s dream of continuing the family of California dairymen.” – Frank Borges, a third-generation dairy farmer from San Joaquin County

A group of farmers who successfully opposed the petition throughout these proceedings were represented by the law firm of Cotchett, Pitre, and McCarthy, LLP.

“This ruling ends a cynical back door attempt to illegally take assets from dairy farmers.” – Niall McCarthy, Cotchett, Pitre & McCarthy

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