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Organic dairies, souring under a crippling jump in feed prices that's threatening businesses in Sonoma County and throughout western states, aren't suffering in silence. 
Local, state and federal officials have a growing awareness of the problems plaguing diaries, and are discussing solutions.
Navdeep Dhillon is farm program chief for the USDA's farm service agency in California.
"I know that the organic dairies are really struggling with the feed prices being so high. They're in competition with non-organic dairies for the same feed. We understand that they are struggling to make ends meet, I know they've requested that the USDA provide assistance."
She said Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack has had recent meetings on the subject. Local organic farmers also met recently with state Senator Mike McGuire. North Bay representative Jared Huffman co-signed a letter to Vilsack with 27 other members of congress urging "immediate support."
Dhillon said there are aid programs available, though their formulas are based on prices for ordinary feed and non-organic milk.
"They can enroll in our 'dairy margin coverage' program, they're eligible for the 'Livestock Forage' program, if they have herds that graze native forage or irrigated forage. What we don't have is special pricing or special consideration for organic dairies."
But she admited, dairy operators aren't happy.
"They are saying that the difference between their milk and the price that they're paying for the organic feed is a lot bigger than what the normal margin is."
While changes could come from a presidential executive order or act of congress, Dhillon says officials in Washington are also looking for an administrative solution.
"The USDA is looking at that. I don't know what they time frame is, but I know it's something that they are looking at."
Until then, she did have advice.
"I would definitely ask that all the dairy operations do contact our local FSA offices and see what's available to them. Don't assume that just because you're organic that you don't qualify. You will get the payment that a regular dairy would get, at least it will be something."
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