Stand up for a local business; make state honor its ‘good neighbor policy’

They say the squeaky wheel gets the grease, and if that’s true, Lassen County residents have an opportunity to try to help save Susanville’s Morning Glory Dairy from the bureaucrats in Sacramento.

How could a long-established local dairy possibly find itself threatened by the folks in the state capitol, you might ask?

Well, when the state built Susanville’s two prisons — High Desert State Prison and the California Correctional Center — part of the deal offered to the community was a “good neighbor policy” in which local vendors would be given priority in providing goods and services to the prisons through what are called “waivers.”

Morning Glory Dairy is not new to this game — the local business has been providing milk and eggs to the local prisons for 55 years. It also provides milk and eggs to local schools and grocery outlets. Under that good neighbor policy, the people of Susanville were promised local goods and services would be utilized whenever possible.

But Josh McKernan, the dairy’s owner, said he’s been informed California Prison Industries Authority recently denied the company’s waivers to provide milk and eggs to the California Correctional Center, and High Desert State Prison will buy eggs only through June and the milk waiver will continue until it expires. Those waivers will not be renewed.

In a letter to the Lassen County Board of Supervisors, McKernan wrote the dairy is “heavily dependant” upon the business from the two prisons because they are the company’s two largest customers.

“Without their volume of business (approximately $1.3 million annually),” he wrote, “we would be forced to lay off half of our workforce and severely curtail the services that we provide to the rest of the community.

McKernan points out the price his company charges for both milk and eggs is cheaper than the price the PIA would charge the prisons, and his company offers three days delivery rather than the two the prisons would get from PIA. He estimates the difference in cost would be about $110,000 annually.

The Lassen County Board of Supervisors has written letters of support for the dairy, and the Susanville City Council is expected to do the same.

Former Lassen County Supervisor Jim Chapman called the situation a “repeat circus” and said the PIA backed off from a previous attempt to pull Morning Glory’s waivers a little more than a decade ago when former State Senator Dave Cox threatened legislation to “take away the authority of the PIA to force state agencies to purchase their products,” requiring instead for competitive bidding. Perhaps the time for such a legislative solution has come again.

If you would like to get involved in this effort to save a portion of our local economy, here is some contact information for government leaders.

Jerry Brown, California Governor, Office of the Governor, Sacramento, CA 95814. (916) 445-2841. Email:
Ted Gaines, District 1 State Senator, State Capital, Room 5125, Sacramento, CA 95814. (916) 319-2004. Email: Senator.Gaines
Brian Dahle, District 1 Assemblyman, State Capital, Sacramento, CA 95814. (916) 319-2001. Email:
Ralph Diaz, Acting Secretary for the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation, (916) 324-7308.
Charles (Chuck) Pattillo, general manager, California Prison Industries Authority, CALPIA, 560 East Natoma Street, Folsom, CA 95630. (916) 358-2650.