Earlier this week, the California Department of Food and Agriculture (CDFA) released a notice it had performed a review of the signatures submitted with a petition requesting a referendum to terminate the Quota Implementation Program (QIP). It found that the threshold number of signatures – 25% of the market milk producers in California – was not met. Therefore, the petition will not be referred to the Producer Review Board (PRB).
There is some interesting data in the CDFA notice. It identified that there are 992 market milk producers in California eligible to vote in a referendum. There were 283 signatures submitted with the “STOP QIP” petition on March 29, 2019. CDFA could validate 243 of those signatures. The rules require that multiple dairies with common ownership be combined to be considered one market milk producer. When the 243 signatures were merged based on the common ownership rule, the number of market milk producers signing the petition dropped from 243 to 197. A minimum 248 market milk producer signatures were needed for the petition to force the issue to be sent to the PRB for consideration.
So where do we go from here? Clearly there are a significant number of California producers who are interested in re-evaluating the current QIP program. Over the past several months, this issue has generated a lot of conversation and concern across the industry. And while the STOP QIP group was not successful in this round of forcing the issue onto the official CDFA agenda, they have been very successful in bringing to light that the status quo is not acceptable to them and therefore not sustainable for the long term.
A process is needed that will enable the California producer community to evaluate its options for the future with regards to quota. The existence of the STOP QIP movement has spawned the creation of another group of producers who organized specifically to focus on the quota issue. That group is named the “United Dairy Families of California.” This group is committed to a process that seeks to find an equitable resolution to the quota issue. The existing cooperatives and trade associations have been understandably reluctant to get involved in this debate because its splits their membership. It would be in the best interest of the industry if a process emerged that would facilitate a long term resolution of this issue. Ultimately this is a producer issue and for many producers a very personal one.