Dairy economists point out that higher feed costs and lower prices for milk will make this year a challenging one for dairies in California. A drop in milk production in the state, which produces more than 20 percent of the country’s milk, could affect prices for produces in others parts of the country.
Kelly pointed out that a drought several years ago in Australia resulted in a substantial decline in milk output.
“If we don’t get a real wet next three months, significantly less forage will be available for our herd,” Kelly says. “It then becomes an economics question. Do we continue to milk this many animals, especially if the price of milk goes below our breakeven point? Of course, every dairy is different.”
For his part, Veldhuis supports the local input provided in the new law, allowing farmers in Merced County to manage the aquifer under their property.
“This is better than letting a judge or legislator manage an aquifer,” he says.
Although his involvement with water issues is partially for the benefit of his operation, Veldhuis says the issue goes beyond his dairy.
“Over the years, I’ve continually sought ways to operate this farm in a way that is sustainable for the land and the river,” he says.