There was some news this week on the upcoming referendum on the Quota Sunset Proposal. The United Dairy Families of California (UDFC) group, which petitioned for the referendum, sent some specific questions to the California Department of Food and Agriculture (CDFA) regarding the logistics of the referendum process. The group received responses to its questions this week.
Question: Will the ballots be mailed out on March 4th, or will they arrive in producers’ mailboxes by March 4th?
Response: The ballots will be mailed via USPS on March 4th. As such, we cannot guarantee when they will arrive in the producer’s mailbox.
Question: Does CDFA have any particular protocols for enabling industry communication with producers during the referendum? For example, we understand Section 62716 gives the Secretary the discretion to reveal the names of producers who have voted during the referendum. In addition, we understand CDFA’s Marketing Order Policies (M205) set forth a process for communication with producers via the Department during a referendum. Please advise.
Response: The CDFA will not be releasing the names of those producers that have submitted ballots. However, if a producer were to contact our unit to verify we received their ballot, we will let that producer know. In the event of a lost/missing ballot, a duplicate ballot may be sent out upon request. The ballot will state “DUPLICATE” and will include the ballot number and producer number. If we receive both the original and duplicate ballots, we will only count the duplicate. Please note, CDFA’s Marketing Order Policies are associated with other State marketing order programs operating under a separate statutory authority than the Quota Implementation Program and their policies are not applicable to this referendum.
Question: CDFA provided frequent updates to the producers and the industry on the percentage of ballots submitted during the 2017 QIP referendum. Please confirm that CDFA will again publish regular updates (2x a week, as was done in 2017) on voting percentages throughout this referendum.
Response: CDFA will not monitor, report, or publish percentages of ballots received. Ballots will not be opened and counted until the referendum voting period has ended.
Question: Does CDFA plan to send any correspondence to producers during the referendum period reminding them to vote? (We would suggest sending a reminder postcard 45 days into the referendum period.)
Question: Will CDFA again publish the details about voting in the referendum in the California Dairy Review (similar to what was done during the 2017 QIP referendum)?
Response: With the implementation of the California Federal Milk Marketing Order and loss of the Milk Pooling and Dairy Marketing Branches, CDFA no longer produces the California Dairy Review publication. The notice that accompanies the ballot will include details of the referendum.
Question: Once the ballots are mailed, would CDFA provide us with a sample of the complete ballot package, including envelope and cover letter, that we may use in our producer outreach efforts?
Response: The CDFA will provide a copy of the notice on its website. However, to ensure ballot integrity, we will not provide a copy of a blank ballot for any purposes.
Question: Can you provide an outline for the process of validating the ballots? Please also address how the Department will identify and handle ballots deemed “invalid,” and how that will be remedied.
Response: CDFA is using the January 2021 Market Milk producer list to verify production numbers and will be used to verify ballots received for tallying purposes. CDFA will combine multiple Market Milk dairies under same/exact ownership and count as one eligible producer. Ballots will include the names of the authorized Market Milk producers on record for the dairy (or dairies under same ownership) and the respective mailing address. Ballots received by CDFA will remain sealed and will not be opened until ten days after the close of the voting period which is June 1, 2021. This allows time for USPS to deliver those ballots mailed and postmarked June 1, 2021. A ballot would be deemed invalid for one or more of the following reasons:
• Did not provide January 2021 market milk production for the tallying
• Did not sign and certify the ballot
• Un-authorized signature on the ballot
• No indication of a yes or no vote
• Was not received or have a postmark on or before the June 1, 2021 voting deadline
There will be no curing of ballots after the close of the voting period.
Question: For process integrity, it is important that producers know the right production number, ballot signatory, and that the ballot gets to the right party. We recommend that a cover letter accompany the ballot to each producer indicating CDFA’s records as to:
• Their correct Market Milk production for January 2021
• The name of the eligible ballot signatory producer per dairy
• The correct mailing address associated with each dairy (and therefore ballot)
Response: Each ballot will indicate the following (and is the same method used during the implementation referendum):
• Mail number and Producer number or numbers
• Names of individuals on title for the dairy or dairies
• Mailing address for the dairy or dairies.
So for example, let us say John and Jane Smith are number 16 on the mailing list and they own two dairies: Dairy #1 with number 12345 and Dairy #2 with 56789. Their ballot would have the following addressed:
16 12345, 56789
Smith John Jane
1234 Cow Rd
Dairyville, CA 99999
The ballot will indicate that only named individuals are eligible to sign. If the producers listed on the ballot has changed (such as additions or deletions), the producer should contact us in order to make corrections and so we can issue a revised duplicate ballot.
We will be including the January volume on each ballot so producers will not need to include that information. Note that in the event there are more than one dairy associated with the ballot, the January production amount listed will be the combined total for all dairies under the same ownership.
Geoff Vanden Heuvel
Director of Regulatory and Economic Affairs