Richard Ghilarducci Sheds Light on the Domain of Organic Dairying

Richard Ghilarducci, the President and CEO of Humboldt Creamery, testified before the first-ever Congressional hearing on organic agriculture and business. He was invited to testify in the historic hearing because of Humboldt Creamery’s continued involvement in the organic sector of the dairy industry. Richard Ghilarducci’s testimony included a history of Humboldt Creamery Association and description of the economic impact organic dairying has made in the region. The testimony also included a request to Congress to consider additional funding for organic dairying technical training, as well as increased funding for the USDA’s National Organic Program (NOP).

Richard Ghilarducci provides an overview of the organic sector of the dairy industry in California

Californians have benefitted from drinking the highest quality, most nutritious milk in the nation since the 1960s. California has been the nation’s largest milk producer since 1993. It is also among the leading producers of butter, ice cream, nonfat dry milk and cheese in the nation. More than 1,100 family dairy farms stand at the center of the state’s vast and growing dairy industry. Humboldt Creamery is a member cooperative association that is owned by 50 Northern California dairy families. It is the oldest active dairy cooperative in the state.

Humboldt Creamery celebrated its 75th anniversary in 2004, produces a full line of dairy products, including fluid milk, powdered milk, ice cream and frozen novelties. More than 30 of its 50 member families converted to organic dairying from conventional in just a couple of years. The northern part of California comprises of widespread, emerald green fields, and hence the dairies here are known to be best suited to produce milk for the organic market. Richard Ghilarducci mentioned that he was proud to be a part of the organic business community and honored to be asked to participate in the Congressional hearing as the growth of the Organic industry is an exciting opportunity for both the region, as well as dairy producers all over the country.

Northern California has a majorly cool and comfortable climate. Most of the family owned dairies of the region are pasture based, and grow most of their forage in an organic manner. Therefore, the bulk of its feed is something the dairies have complete control over, making it ideal for organic dairy production.  Over time, several growing dairy companies are moving to dry, western environments where they can milk thousands of cows. But family dairies in Northern California typically milk a few hundred cows, and not thousands. Hence, it is difficult for them to compete with larger companies. For smaller, family owned dairies, it makes more sense to focus on the niche market of organic dairy. Doing so would allow them to enjoy higher income, even though costs increase due to lower milk production per cow.

Like most business and production models, organic dairying has both pros and cons. The challenges in the industry can be production oriented or political in nature. The biggest challenge is on the supply side, being able to procure the feed to produce the milk. the Organic industry is an exciting opportunity for both the region, as well as dairy producers all over the country. Another major challenge is to meet the strict, national organic standards. The Baby Boomer generation was not only one of the largest, but also among the most idealistic generations that ever entered this world. Many boomers have always been confident that they were going to change the world, by cleaning up the environment, solving poverty, ending wars, and so on.  This idealism is a major driver behind their work ethics. However, due to their idealism and passion, boomers also face difficulties in imagining that anyone else can manage business, government and community service organizations as competently as them.

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