In the largest dairy producing area of the top dairy state, it was no surprise that dairy was the number one topic addressed during a visit by Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack to Modesto, California last week on his Rural Tour.
Vilsack was joined at the event by California Congressman Dennis Cardoza, Deputy Secretary of Agriculture Kathleen Merrigan and California Secretary of Agriculture, A. G. Kawamura. Together they listened to the concerns of nearly 400 frustrated dairy producers imploring for help to stem the losses that threaten their livelihood.
“I’d like to thank you for all you’ve done so far, but it isn’t enough,” said Linda Lopes, president of the California Dairy Women. “We need the support price to be higher, we need it to be extended longer, and we need it to be floored. Because right now all of us are surviving on our equity and if this price doesn’t come up and stay up for a long time, the next time there won’t be any equity to borrow against and that will be the end of the dairy industry in California.”
Vilsack outlined what USDA has done so far to help producers, including export subsidies, increased federal purchases for nutrition programs and raising the support price for dairy products. The secretary said he wants to do more but he has to wait until Congress is back in session. “The problem is that we are now facing the beginning of a new fiscal year,” Vilsack said. “It’s not a simple thing to do what you have asked me to do. I want to do it, I want to help. We are going to try and work through the process.”
Vilsack also talked about the formation of a 15 member dairy industry advisory committee to help come up with solutions to the industry crisis, “to try to figure out what will be better than what we have today.”
Listen to some of the comments and questions from the California Rural Tour in this Milking Parlor podcast sponsored by Fort Dodge Animal Health: [audio:http://zimmcomm.biz/dairy/milking-parlor-fdah-2.mp3]