Environmental Concerns Over China-CA Dairy Ties

As China’s growing demand for dairy products is expected to keep rising, and as its domestic industry is currently unable to satisfy demand and riddled with safety scandals, California dairy farmers are suffering due to price regulations and rising feed costs. Exports have been identified as crucial to the future of California’s industry, and PBS quotes an industry insider on the opportunities identified in China’s growing demand:

“We know a lot of these markets in China will grow 10 or 20 fold over the next few decades. By being there now, we can be at the start of that growth,” said Ross Christieson, a consultant for the California Milk Advisory Board, in the next “Food for 9 Billion” report airing on Thursday’s PBS NewsHour [Source]

The Center for Investigative Reporting, PBS’s reporting partner on the “Food for 9 Billion” series, takes a detailed look at China’s growing appetite for dairy, at California’s embattled industry, and at potential industry ties between the region. The article explains existing concerns over the impact of dairy production on California’s air and water, and notes that these environmental concerns are heightened in the face of the potential cross-Pacific trade relationship:

“Definitely, there’s a carrying capacity for dairy, and it’s air quality,” said Brent Newell, legal director for the Center on Race, Poverty & the Environment, an environmental justice organization that focuses mostly on the San Joaquin Valley. “You can’t keep sticking more dairies in the San Joaquin Valley in order to export cheese to China.”

[…]“We’re bearing the burden of all this pollution for a product that is being exported,” [Newell] said. “It is fundamentally unfair and unjust to burden low-income communities in the San Joaquin Valley with all of this pollution.”

[…]But while Chinese demand for dairy is increasing by double-digit percentages every year, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Newell and others say it’s also likely temporary. That’s because Chinese entrepreneurs are trying to meet the growing demand by starting their own dairy farms. [Source]

Also see Financial Times’ report on foreign dairy firms eying China’s baby formula market—there has been distrust of domestically produced powdered milk formulas in China since the  “poison milk powder” (毒奶粉) scandal of 2008.

For more on China’s dairy industry, see prior CDT coverage.