Local dairy farm continues fight for competition
There's an old axiom that “you can't fight city hall.” Well, if you think that is hard, try fighting the federal government.
A Yuma-area dairy owner can testify that it is no easy thing because he has been fighting without success against a federal regulation in the courts since 2005 and now is asking the U.S. Supreme Court to intervene.
The basic issue is free enterprise and competition.
The local Sarah Farms Dairy, owned by Hein and Ellen Hettinga, has a simple goal — to sell milk. They know they can sell more if it is at a lower price that gives the dairy a competitive advantage. But the federal government — at the insistence of other dairy operators — is making that difficult, if not impossible.
The Hettingas are among the last of the independent dairy producers in the nation that both produce and market their own milk products. Almost all dairies now sell their product to cooperatives that then package and market the products.
By cutting out the “middle man,” the cooperative, Sarah Farms can sell more cheaply. The cooperatives don't like that, so they convinced federal lawmakers to pass the Milk Regulatory Equity Act of 2005 which requires independents like the Hettingas to pay costly “marketing” fees to the cooperatives even if they don't use them. This is supposedly to cover the costs of national promotion of dairy products consumption.
The Hettingas don't want the promotion help, but so far the federal courts have sided with the cooperatives. The Supreme Court is the last venue, if it chooses to accept the case.
We think the high court ought to hear the Sarah Farms challenge. The ability to compete independently and either succeed or fail is the foundation of our nation's free enterprise system. The milk act — which the Hettingas say intentionally and unlawfully singled them out — undermines that concept and ultimately hurts consumers.