California To Hold Hearing on Dairy Quota Suspension
March 2, 2020
The California Department of Food and Agriculture (CDFA) has set a hearing on April 7 and 8 to consider the suspension of its state dairy quota program.
StopQIP, a producer group opposed to the quota program, was successful in getting 28% of California dairy farmers to sign a petition to consider suspending Chapter 3.5 of the Food and Agricultural Code. Chapter 3.5 allows the state authority to collect quota assessments to fund the program.
The voting threshold to suspend Chapter 3.5 is a simple majority, a lower bar than is required to amend the quote program itself. “Chapter 3.5 requires a 51 percent favorable vote to continue the chapter,” says Geoff Vanden Heuvel, director of regulatory and economic affairs for the California Milk Producer Council.
“Said another way, 49.1 percent [of producers] voting no suspends Chapter 3.5. If Chapter 3.5 is suspended, the authority of CDFA to collect assessments to fund the quota payments is also suspended,” he explains.
An administrative law judge will preside over the hearing, and a representative of California’s Attorney General Office will be the only person who will be allowed to question witnesses on behalf of the California Secretary of Agriculture. No other questioning of witnesses will be allowed, according to the Notice of Hearing. Testimony will be received under oath.
Though not noted in the hearing announcement, the Administrative Law Judge will likely then deliver a recommendation to the CDFA Secretary, Karen Ross, as to whether a producer referendum to suspend Chapter 3.5 should be conducted.
In the meantime, the United Dairy Families group is continuing to circulate a petition to continue the quota program until 2025. Stay tuned. There is unquestionably more drama to come.