Issues: Environment

cows standing in field

“San Joaquin Valley dairy farmers have reduced smog- forming emissions from their farms by more than 30 percent over the past four years. We know more today than ever before about these emissions and how to control them, thanks to a cooperative effort of researchers, air district scientists, and support from dairy organizations.”

Seyed Sadredin, Air Pollution Control Officer
San Joaquin Valley Unified Air Pollution
Control District

California dairy families are dedicated to conservation and stewardship of land and water resources and comply daily with the strictest dairy environmental regulations in the United States. As a result, California dairies have raised the performance bar for protecting air and water quality and assuring consumers that their dairy products are produced sustainably. Consider the following:

Full environmental review comes first. All new dairy projects (and expansions of existing farms) must comply with the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA), the most comprehensive environmental law in the nation. Proposed projects are evaluated for all potential environmental impacts before project approval.This ensures that California dairy projects are environmentally sustainable before a single cow is milked.

Leaders in protecting air quality. According to San Joaquin Valley air quality regulators, dairy farms have reduced emissions by more than 30 percent since June 2006. As part of their ongoing efforts to improve air quality, dairy families commit to management practices to reduce dust, ammonia and smog-forming gases. Compliance with air quality rules is verified by government inspectors on a regular basis.

Protecting our valuable water resources. California dairies operate under the most comprehensive and stringent water quality regulations in the nation.These are designed to prevent any possible pollution of rivers, lakes and streams. Dairy farmers must also carefully manage their applications of cow manure — a nutrient-rich natural fertilizer extensively used by home gardeners and organic farmers — to crops to prevent groundwater contamination. Samples of soil, water and plant tissue are gathered and analyzed regularly to ensure proper management remains in place.

Reuse, renewal and conservation. Resource conservation is central to California dairy farming. Farmers locally grow much of their own cattle feed, and use manure as a renewable fertilizer and soil builder. Dairy farmers work with neighboring farmers to use agricultural by-products that might otherwise go to waste — such as almond hulls, culled fruits and vegetables, and cottonseed — as supplemental cattle feed. And water, California’s most precious resource, is never wasted! Clean water is used to cool milk tanks and wash cows; later it’s recycled to flush manure from barn floors. Finally, water is re-used yet again to irrigate livestock feed crops such as alfalfa and corn.