Valadao family dairy farm seized by Rabobank as others nationwide struggle

Photo: Pixabay via MGN, file

BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KBAK/KBFX) - California, the state that for decades has led the nation in milk production, is a state of financial hurdles for dairy farmers.

New policies and action from Congress could turn the dairy industry around.

Triple V Dairy in Tulare, a farm co-owned by Rep. David Valadao and his extended family, has been seized by Rabobank after failing to pay two loans totaling $8.3 million.

Fresno Superior Court ordered the farm animals and equipment be auctioned to pay off some of the debt.

In a statement sent to Eyewitness News, Valadao said, “Like so many family dairy farms across the country, burdensome government regulations made it impossible for the operation to remain open. While this has been an especially difficult experience, I remain hopeful that sharing my story will help those going through similar situations. This is exactly why I ran for Congress – to give agriculture communities across the nation a voice in Washington.”

"I see it too often. I would say there are about 30 to 50 cases a year in California where dairies go bankrupt who have been in business for decades, in fact for generations, and it's heartbreaking," said Frank Mitloehner, a professor at UC Davis' Department of Animal Sciences. He's been researching California's dairy industry for years.

It's become so dire, New York's Sen. Kristen Gillibrand last month requested $300 million in relief aid funds for dairy farmers across the country. In a letter to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, she said the industry is facing "a time of unprecedented distress on dairy farms in every state."

"There are places in the state and in the nation where it's cheaper for you to buy milk than bottled water, and there's something wrong with that," Mitloehner said.

But, just days after his family farm gave up more of its cows for cash, Valadao's legislation he wrote in March 2013 to support dairy farmers was finally published by the USDA.

Starting in October, the Federal Milk Marketing Order gives a new pricing system to California's dairy farmers to compete on the national level, instead of the state's, where the price of milk is one of the lowest in the country.

"As a dairy farmer myself, I experienced firsthand the serious disadvantages dealt to California dairy producers," Valadao said in a statement on June 8, the day the USDA published his FMMO rule.

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