"If we don't get rain or have a good winter, our farmers might leave the state," Barcellos said.
Dairy products - milk, cream, butter and cheese - are by far the largest segment of California agricultural production, contributing $140 billion annually to the state's economy. But the the state's industry is shrinking.
According to Lesley "Bees" Butler, UC Cooperative Extension specialist in the Department of Agricultural and Resource Economics at UC Davis, California has lost 1 to 2 percent of its dairy industry in the last three years. About 100 dairies go out of business every year waiting for rain.
"It's a huge time of uncertainty," Butler said.
South Dakota Governor Dennis Daugaard himself made a personal appeal for the state, where ag officials estimate that a single dairy cow creates $15,000 in economic activity each year.
In recent years, an average of 100 California dairies have closed annually, said Leslie "Bees" Butler, UC Cooperative Extension specialist in the Department of Agricultural and Resource Economics at UC Davis.
"Ten years ago, California was the low-cost producer," Butler said. With low milk prices and high feed costs, "it's become more difficult to dairy here."
Tweaking feed recipes can go a long way toward protecting farmland in and around dairy farms
Joshua Emerson Smith, The Merced Sun-Star
Overfeeding salts and other minerals to dairy cows can negatively affect soil and groundwater quality, according to a research report in the Journal of Dairy Science by Alejandro Castillo, UC Cooperative Extension advisor in Merced County.
"This is going to be important for the sustainability of our dairy farms," he said. "We need to try to see the future and imagine the sustainability of our dairy farms and maintain the business for a long time."
A new lease on life
The Davis Enterprise
A series of photos by Sue Cockrell from the recent "groundbreaking" ceremonies for the new home of UC Agriculture and Natural Resources in Davis.
A daylong bus tour offered as part of the annual EcoFarm Conference at Asilomar Feb. 1-4 was led by representatives from Organic Ag Advisors, Community Alliance with Family Farmers and UC Cooperative Extension, according to a post by Caitlin Keller on the Daily Dish, a Los Angeles Times food blog.
Monterey County UCCE farm advisor Richard Smith led a tour of innovative farms along the Central Coast.
Asian citrus psyllid at Coachella Valley's doorstep
Guy McCarthy, Parl Desert Patch
Asian citrus psyllid has been found in eight residential locations in the San Gorgonio Pass, according to a CDFA official. The pest was detected in Cabazon, Banning and Beaumont.
"So far these are the eastern-most detections in Riverside County, so we would like to treat this area to knock down the population, and prevent it from spreading to the Coachella Valley," said Debby Tanouye, CDFA state branch chief of pest detection/emergency projects.
Milking industry for all it has
Rick Longley, Willows Journal
UC Cooperative Extension and the California Dairy Quality Assurance Program hosted North Valley Dairy Day in Orland Feb. 6. The morning session focused on financial matters and the afternoon focused on feeding practices, pasture management and bovine illnesses.
"They do a nice job," dairy producer Jason Osburn said. "I try to attend whenever they have one."
Learning about new practices in the industry and getting up to speed on what is happening in areas outside Orland also interest him, Osburn said.
The results of Harter's research were outlined in a UC Davis press release distributed last week and picked up by the Sacramento Bee, an LA Times blog and other media outlets.
"Our next task is to determine whether these particular antibiotics are further degraded before reaching domestic and public water wells," Harter was quoted in the release.
California dairies typically give antibiotics to young cows, and to nonlactating adult cows. The news release said health officials are concerned that antibiotics could travel from manure lagoons into drinking water for people and livestock. Harter said that the health effects of antibiotics in drinking water at the low levels he detected are not known.
Harter's study was conducted at two large freestall dairy operations in the San Joaquin Valley with a total of more than 2,700 milking cows and 2,500 heifers. The research was published Aug. 10 in the American Chemical Society's online journal Environmental Science & Technology.
American dairy operators are asking the Obama Administration to protect them from an increase in New Zealand dairy exports to the U.S., according to an article in yesterday's Wall Street Journal. But Daniel Sumner, director of the UC Agricultural Issues Center, believes the American farmers' worries are overblown.
"They're making wild claims," Sumner was quoted in the story.
Obama's trade negotiators begin talks next week in Australia on a regional trade agreement that may make it easier for New Zealand dairy operators to ship products to the U.S.
American dairy farmers are concerned because they are still recovering from nearly two years of severe losses, wrote WSJ reporter Lauren Etter. Last year, milk prices fell to 30-year lows.
New Zealand's open space and mild climate have helped it become one of the world's lowest-cost dairy producers. Its inhabitants can consume only a fraction of the milk and related products made there.
Sumner told the reporter that New Zealand dairy products entering the U.S. would put some downward pressure on U.S. dairy prices. But he said the U.S. economy would benefit from trade in other industries that will likely outweigh the hardships for dairy farmers.