Millard County officials are literally "milking" their economic development program for all it's worth - they're trying to persuade dozens of California dairymen to relocate in their area.
County Administrator Robyn Pearson said much of Millard County's hay crop is shipped to California dairies, and "we figure it is easier to ship milk than it is to ship hay."He said farmers would probably be better off if the hay they produce could be marketed locally, adding that some California dairymen are finding it more difficult to operate because of environmental requirements.
Officials are specifically centering their efforts in the Chino, Calif., area. Commissioner Mike Styler said dairymen there keep about 230,000 dairy cows in a five- by seven-mile area. The area has been zoned to preserve dairies, but the zoning will expire in a few years and it may not be renewed.
Land adjacent to zoned areas is selling for as much as $300,000 an acre, so dairymen won't be able to afford to stay there, Styler said.
Letters were sent to about 200 California dairymen after local extension agents visited the dairy communities. At a meeting in California, dairymen said they had given thoughts to relocation but hadn't considered Utah. They had thought of other locations in California, or possibly Idaho. Some of them have moved to Jerome, Idaho.
Most of the dairy people in the California area are Dutch and members of the Dutch Reformed Church. They expressed concern that they may not be well accepted in Utah's LDS communities, but Styler said they were assured they would be and were told, "We'd love to have you folks come up."
Pearson said there are dairymen in California who want to continue in the industry but will be forced to relocate.
The Californians also expressed concern about Utah's cold weather but were assured by Delta dairyman Ron Myers that his cattle's milk production doesn't decline in the winter.
Pearson said there is a lot of good acreage available in Millard County with sandy soil that would be ideal for dairy enterprises. A ready market for milk is also close at hand through the Delta Valley Farms cheese plant.
Officials believe that relocating California dairymen to Millard County would boost the economy, and the effort has become part of the county's economic-development program.
Many California dairymen have arranged a trek to south-central Utah.