May 11 2012 06:26 AM

Billboards encourage them to move to South Dakota and leave production caps behind.

For decades, other states have flirted with California dairies like they're the prettiest girls at the dance. There have been many suitors, too; a dozen from as far away as Wisconsin come to mind.

South Dakota isn't new to the list, but the strategy being used is: nine billboards in Tulare County, the heart of the San Joaquin Valley, that remind producers about a sore spot which was recently re-aggravated by one of the local co-ops – production caps.

Over a photo background of grazing cows, a huge headline says, "No Base, No Quota." Below it is, "Milk your cows in South Dakota." In the bottom right corner is a big phone number: (605) 785-3683.

South Dakota isn't making the pitch; it's merely the destination. Instead, the billboards are the work of Davisco Foods International, a family-owned, progressive, and savvy processing firm that makes 370 million pounds of cheese per year and is the largest producer of whey protein isolates in the world. The telephone number on the billboards belongs to the Davisco cheese plant in Lake Norden, S.D.

Davisco CEO Jon Davis really knows how to get dairy producers' attention. Interviewed by phone for a story about the billboards by a Fresno, Calif., TV station, Davis took a jab at production quotas that were recently re-instituted by Land O'Lakes when he said, "In South Dakota, they won't be penalized for overproduction; we will encourage it."

Nicely played, sir.

While the billboards are new and fun, they are unlikely to inspire any dairies to move during these cold financial times. But they may plant a seed. And in an industry where unbridled ability to expand production is as basic a business tool as Holsteins, don't be surprised if they sprout into opportunities for some producers when things warm up.