Monthly Columns

June is dairy month—a time to celebrate nutrient rich, locally-produced dairy foods people love. It’s also a time for dairy farm families to reflect on their long history and many achievements. In the Golden State, we recognize the milestones our dairy families have achieved in sustainable farming practices and the important contributions they have made to our rural economy, all while maintaining our position as the leading dairy state.

California’s outdated system for protecting water quality is undergoing an overhaul. For Central Valley water users, this regulatory reform is long overdue. And while the changes that come with it won’t be easy, they provide farmers in the nation’s top agricultural state a more sensible and balanced approach for farm water use.

When legislators approved Senate Bill 1383 (Lara) last September, California became the first state to initiate plans for reducing dairy methane emissions. The law gives broad authority to the California Air Resources Board (ARB) to set aggressive goals for reducing “short-lived climate pollutants,” including reducing methane emissions from dairy manure management by 40 percent below 2013 levels by 2030.

California dairy farms have a rich legacy beginning with the Spanish missionaries and expanding greatly during the Gold Rush. For generations, these dairy families have made our state their home, caring for their cows, and contributing to our economy and culture. For more than two centuries, producing high-quality, highly-nutritious dairy products has been a way of life for this dedicated, passionate group of families. Unfortunately, this legacy is slipping away.

Dias Family Dairy

Doing more with less is part of the daily routine at California dairy farms. Running a dairy is increasingly challenging. What’s amazing is how California dairy families have managed these challenges, while making continuous improvements to efficiency and productivity.

Despite a welcome wet start to California’s rainy season, long-term prospects for having enough water for agriculture in parts of the San Joaquin Valley are jeopardized by more than just drought. A new proposal by the State Water Resources Control Board (SWRCB) recommends that the unimpaired flows of the San Joaquin River and its main tributaries be increased from the current 20 percent average to between 30-to-50 percent to help fish survive.

Through improved production efficiency, the water footprint of a glass of milk has been continuously reduced over the years. Dairy farmers in the Golden State are now making further strides in water conservation with more efficient crop irrigation technologies and milk cooling water recycling practices. Water-use efficiency will become even more important as ongoing and more frequent drought conditions continue to tighten the water supply for agriculture.

Dairy sustainability is taking root across the Golden State in many ways. Increasing utilization of solar energy on dairy farms is definitely at the forefront of this trend and reflects the long-term commitment of dairy families to sustainable practices.

 

In the final weeks of the legislative session, California lawmakers passed major climate change measures, including Senate Bill 32 (Pavley), which extends the state’s greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions reduction target from achieving 1990 emission levels by 2020 to reducing 40 percent below 1990 levels by 2030.

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