CEO of California Dairies, Inc. says he is stepping down

Andrei Mikhalevsky announces he will retire on Dec. 31; search ensues for his successor

By John Lindt
Sierra2theSea News Service

VISALIA – The CEO of Visalia-based California Dairies is stepping down later this year. Andrei Mikhalevsky, president and chief executive officer of California Dairies Inc. (CDI) since 2012, has announced he will retire Dec. 31, 2019.

Andrei Mikhalevsky
CEO, California Dairies, Inc.

The CDI Board of Directors has initiated a search to identify candidates as his successor.

CDI has been the second-largest dairy co-op in the U.S., behind Dairy Farmers of America. The co-op has 384 farmer members and produces 47% of all milk in California, 9% of all milk in the country, and 42% of all milk powder made in the country. It enjoys sales of more than $4 billion. The co-op recently announced the purchase of Hilmar Cheese’s milk powder operation in Turlock.

Success Dam to be named for Richard Schafer 

A bill to name Porterville area’s Success Dam for long time Tule River Water Master Richard Schafer has passed the House this week. It is expected to pass the Senate next.

“I am pleased to see this bill pass with unanimous support out of the House. Richard Schafer has been a pillar of strength in our community for over half a century, and it is appropriate that Success Dam, which he continues to enthusiastically fight to improve, is one step closer to being named after him,” said Congressman Kevin McCarthy.

“For decades, Mr. Schafer has served on countless water boards, working tirelessly to help ensure that Porterville, Tulare County and the Central Valley have access to water when they need it, helping our neighbors, farmers and agricultural producers throughout our community.

“It is my hope now that the Senate acts expeditiously to pass this bill and honor a man who has helped shape California’s water infrastructure.”

Cherries, other crops suffer storm damage

Cherries in Kings and Fresno counties have suffered storm and hail damage that likely exceed the 30% threshold to be declared as a disaster. Kings ag commissioner Jimmy Hook said “we had lots of rain late in the season and some fruit was not harvested due to the damage. I heard of fruit that was dumped because the picking cost would have exceeded the return. We are still collecting  information but we expect it to reach the 30% level.”

Heavy rains have caused much of the fruit to split, making it unsellable.Other press accounts confirm the news.

“It’s been devastating,” said Don Goforth, director of sales and marketing for Family Tree Farms Marketing, LLC. In Reedley, “The market was very hungry for cherries.”

He said in his area of California, crop damage is 50 to 100 percent. He said he’s hearing closer to 50% losses in the Stockton/Lodi area, but overall, he predicted the state would lose 60 to 65% of its crop due to the rain.

“The rain brings nitrogen into the tree, and the fruit ends up cracking,” he said. “Then there’s no value. Harvesting and packing cherries is very expensive.”

Other crops including cotton and tomatoes have been hurt as well although “it’s more spotty,” adds Jimmy Hook. Nuts may have been hurt but its too early to tell.

Cotton crop estimate reduced

A month ago CEO of California Cotton Ginners and Growers Association, Roger Isom said he expected  cotton plantings of better than 300,000 acres in the state this year  – up to 20% over last year. There was some 244,000 acres harvested in 2018 and 283,390 acres in 2017.

But the latest estimate from the trade group is coming in much lower – an increase of just 1.5%.

“Chinese tariffs, depressed cotton prices, but an abundant supply of water have sent mixed messages to cotton growers as they head into the 2019 planting season.”

A late May estimate expects approximately 184,000 acres of pima, 17,000 acres of Hazera and 60,000 acres of upland statewide for the 2019 cotton season plus or minus 10%.   This survey is based on surveys from all of the gins in California and things could change when final field surveys are completed by CDFA says Isom.

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