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California Federal Order Hearing Is Off and Running

Sep 23, 2015

The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s hearing to consider proposals to establish a Federal Milk Marketing Order for the state of California began promptly at 9:00 a.m. on Tuesday in Clovis, Calif. Much of the morning was spent with procedural details, including a review of how USDA conducts a Federal Order hearing. In the morning, there were over 100 people in the hearing room to watch the proceedings, but after lunch the crowd dwindled to about half that size.

For background on the hearings, read “Hearing Set for Proposed California Federal Milk Marketing Order” and “USDA Receives Alternative Proposals on California Milk Marketing.”

The hearing is being presided over by Jill Clifton, a USDA administrative law judge. In addition, 16 USDA staff members who will be involved in the hearing process were introduced, and others in attendance who planned to testify or ask questions of those who do testify also introduced themselves. Several of the proponents of proposals then asked Judge Clifton to reconsider USDA’s plan for when certain topics would be discussed. As a result, Judge Clifton agreed that witnesses would not be required to follow that plan.

USDA then introduced the first exhibits of the hearing, including the hearing notice published in the Federal Register on August 6, 2015. More than two hours after the hearing officially began, the first witness, Amanda Steeneck, an agricultural economist with the USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service, Dairy Programs, took the stand. Steeneck explained how she prepared USDA’s "Preliminary Regulatory Impact Analysis of Proposals to Establish a California Federal Milk Marketing Order.”

Except for a 90-minute lunch break, the rest of the day consisted of various individuals cross examining Steeneck, with the hearing winding down for the day just before 5:00 p.m. There was still at least one person waiting to cross examine Steeneck who agreed to wait until this morning.

After cross examination of Steeneck is completed, another USDA witness will take the stand to enter into the hearing record other data requested by interested parties. There was an industry request for another USDA witness to answer questions about some technical procedures related to Federal Order regulations that may follow.

After that, Judge Clifton will hear legal arguments regarding USDA’s denial of a request by the Dairy Institute of California to consider a different means of valuing whey during this hearing. More information on this issue is available here and here.

The hearing is expected to last several weeks, and USDA is streaming an audio feed of the hearing each day from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. The live feed is available here.

IDFA Vice President and Chief Economist Bob Yonkers is attending the hearing and will provide periodic updates for members. If you’d like to receive these updates, contact Molly Pfaffenroth, IDFA legislative assistant, at mpfaffenroth@idfa.org.

 
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