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California Dairy Farmers Migrating to Cheaper States


Facing rising feed costs, drought and high state taxes, farming is becoming increasingly more difficult for California's dairy farmers, and some are being courted to leave the state, reports theLos Angeles Times.

Nine states reportedly began recruiting California dairy farmers at the recent World Ag Expo, held in Tulare County, California. "South Dakota sent its governor, Dennis Daugaard, to make a personal appeal for his state," says the Times.

The incentives for other states to capitalize on California's dairy farmers are lucrative, as officials estimate that "a single dairy cow creates $15,000 worth of economic activity annually through feed, vet bills and the like. That translates into jobs and revenue for hard-pressed rural areas." But California's expensive overhead can quickly eat up that revenue.

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In addition to the decreased costs, other states say they can also fetch higher prices for dairy than the competitive California market, reports the Times. "California farmers, for instance, endured a beat-down in 2009 when milk prices plunged from about $17 per 100 pounds to $10 per 100 pounds, driving many dairies out of business."

And there are costly environmental regulations in the state, too. Air and water quality issues that can be traced to dairy farms can result in expensive testing, paperwork and inspection fees that also fall on the farmers.

While still the largest dairy-producing state in the country, California's gone from 1.88 million cows in 2008 to 1.82 in 2012. The number of dairies has dropped considerably as well from more than 2,100 in 2003 to fewer than 1,600 in 2012, according to the California Department of Food and Agriculture.

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Image: Marcy Reiford

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