A fresh reason why California's dairy industry may keep sliding

A fresh reason why California's dairy industry may keep sliding

As if the growing water shortage and low milk prices weren't enough, California dairies now face a more restrictive state clean air regulatory proposal.

Dairy farmers in the Northeast and Midwest may collectively sigh in relief after reading the recent “Dairies dread proposed climate change regulations” article by George Lurie from last week’s The Business Journal. Here are a few of the details.

The California Air Resources Board (CARB) has proposed new climate change regulations calling for a 75% reduction in overall methane emissions from the state’s dairies by 2030. CARB’s plan to drastically curtail Golden State greenhouse gas emissions was recently outlined in a draft document. Workshops are scheduled to seek input from dairymen and dairy officials on proposal.

CALIFORNIA GIRLS GOING? Faced with low milk prices, water-use fights and shrinking ag lands, California milk producers face newly proposed air quality regulations.

“The report points to a vague regulatory process to begin next year affecting dairies,” according to Paul Sousa, director of environmental services and regulatory affairs for Western United Dairymen. “In our conversations with CARB, they have indicated that they likely will start with requiring larger dairies to calculate and report their greenhouse gas emissions, followed by additional regulations.”

The proposal would require dairies to significantly upgrade manure management practices and reduce enteric fermentation emissions — cow burps — by 25% by 2030. Air Board officials say California’s methane emissions can be cut considerably by converting from flush water lagoons to so-called “solid-scrape” or dry-manure management systems.

Air Board officials are encouraging dairymen to embrace various methane-reduction strategies, including on-site biogas energy generation. WUD considers the methane reduction targets as “beyond ambitious.” To meet the 2030 goal [of 75% reduction] using only digesters, WUD estimates that digesters would have to be installed on the state’s 600 largest dairies. In the past 15 years, only about two-dozen digesters have been built in California —and only 13 of those are still in operation today, notes Sousa.

Environmental groups hope the proposal will lead to more pasture-based dairy farming in the Central Valley. But Tipton dairyman Frank Mendonsa contends pasture-oriented dairying isn’t viable in the Central Valley where pasture land is scarce.

Click on Proposed climate change regulations  to read the complete article.

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