Big dairies are big business, so big that it only takes a few of them to have a huge financial impact on an area's economy.
While California politicians and regulators appear to have grown deaf, dumb, and blind to this reality, their counterparts elsewhere apparently "get it" in a big way. Earlier this month the Associated Press even reported that several states are once again openly courting California dairies to move to their more hospitable regulatory environments.
This is by no means something new. Throughout the 1970s, ‘80s, and ‘90s out-of-state Economic Development Corporations almost lined up to visit southern California and hold luncheons or dinners to pitch the virtues and opportunities of their areas. Off the top of our head we can recall Utah, Texas, Idaho, New Mexico, Kansas, Oklahoma, Missouri, South Dakota, and Iowa.
This time the message is different. Instead of being about low feed costs or quality of life, the focus is on less red tape and a willingness to work with producers in the permitting process. Besides being a breath of fresh air to California dairy owners, this message is also attractive to the states. Some estimates peg the local economic impact of a new dairy as high as $1,500 per cow. For a modest 2,000-cow dairy, that means a $30 million ripple effect – a gigantic number that's virtually impossible for a rural community to duplicate from another single source.
Urban encroachment is an integral part of California's dairy history. Regulating cows in new and more stringent ways seems destined to be a neverending part of its future. Inevitably, every dairy in the state is likely to reach a point where continuing to do business there simply becomes untenable.