Another California exodus: Dairy cows leave for greener pastures in Texas, Arizona as farms squeezed under health, housing law
The dairy industry is shedding about 18,000 head of dairy cows from California each year, according to Dairymen for Clean Dairy, a group formed in March to oppose the new federal health provisions in place in Texas and Arizona. The group represents the industry’s estimated 20,000 dairy farmers and others who depend on the industry to raise the milk that provides much of the nation’s food.
With that loss, dairymen’s lobbying efforts against the new laws are showing some initial signs of success, with a bill to replace the measures pending in the California state Legislature. The push in the Lone Star State will be aided by more than 10,000 dairy farmers’ associations that have already signed onto the letter urging lawmakers to oppose the federal requirements.
A dairyman from Texas who would only give his first name, Michael, said that he thinks the industry is on to something.
“It’s not like we’re losing 60,000 head of dairy cows because we’re not producing milk,” he said.
But a Texas dairyman, who said he could not be named because he is concerned about the backlash from the public, said the industry is taking a risk by leaving hundreds of thousands of cows unowned in California and keeping them in Texas.
“You’re selling at what, $1.35, $1.40 a gallon — not making a profit? We could be selling milk for $3.00 a gallon at the end of the day,” he said.
California dairymen say that if they stay in the state, Texas will have just as much dairy product, at a much lower cost — and potentially more profit — to sell.
But it’s not just Californians who are losing out. The Texas dairyman said that the thousands of cow-calf operations that have left his state over the past few years are leaving to take advantage of the cheaper feeding and land costs made possible by the state’s strict housing laws.
In a statement, the Texas Dairymen’s Association, which represents about 150 Texas dairymen, said “the new dairy housing law and regulations that make it difficult for Texas dairymen to expand or