Another California exodus: Dairy cows leave for greener pastures in Texas, Arizona as farms squeezed
By Scott Schneider
Published July 11, 2016
From the start, it was different.
A group of dairy cows came over the hills into the field, past rows of corn, and into an area of the San Joaquin Valley where, for many years, a single tenant farmer had operated a large herd of mostly milk-producing cows.
They wandered for awhile, then stopped to graze by the roadside. One cow, a black one, was looking up at the sky — clearly looking for a place to lay her head, as she often does, in the afternoon.
The cows are gone now, a loss that could turn a once-thriving agribusiness into a small farm-to-table operation.
The exodus, like the one of dairy cattle from Texas two weeks ago, is the latest in a series of dramatic departures by the nation’s agribusiness from California.
The latest is of milk cows — three of them, all black — from San Joaquin Valley dairy farms that have begun to graze in southern Arizona, according to a report Monday in the Arizona Republic.
Agriculture is the top economic driver in most of the other major states in the U.S., and California’s farm output more than doubles that of Texas, according to figures from Census Bureau data. But unlike in other industries, not all of the dairy industry’s new jobs are coming from California.
On Tuesday, the San Francisco Business Times reported that two companies have hired 200 people from the nation’s second largest dairy industry, with the state’s largest producer, Closest and Vails, hiring 300.
“It’s a pretty clear indication of where the employment landscape of the dairy industry is going,” said Brian Stokes, senior vice president of the California Farm Bureau Federation and a dairy industry veteran.
The exodus includes California’s two largest dairies — Closest, with 1,400 dairy and feeder operations, has hired 700 people from dairy and feed industries, and Vails, with 1,200 operations, hired 600.
Also being swallowed