Monthly Columns

Tipton, California dairy farmer Art Van Beek was one of the first in California to voluntarily have his farm evaluated according to the guidelines of the National Dairy FARM Program: Farmers Assuring Responsible Management.

In April, Tipton dairy farmer Frank Mendonsa discovered he had some new neighbors taking up residence in a field next to his dairy in Tipton, California. Two large colonies of Tricolored Blackbirds, about 15,000 total, settled on 80 acres of triticale wheat he was growing to feed his cows.

“When the birds first appeared on my property this spring, I didn’t know what kind they were,” said Mendonsa. “Once it was pointed out to me how few of these birds are left in the world and how many were on my property, I was very moved.”

Dairy silage fields in the Central Valley have increasingly become an important nexus between Tricolored Blackbirds, dairy farmers and bird enthusiasts. Due to the loss of California’s natural wetlands – made worse by the state’s fourth year of extreme drought – Tricolored Blackbirds are ever more dependent on these fields for nesting and hatching their young.

From the Governor to your neighbor, everyone is talking about the California drought. That’s a good thing. The drought is real, severe and should act as a call-to-action for all Californians to use water efficiently in both wet and dry years.

Drought MonitorOne might think that winter storms in December and February put California in a better water position at the start of 2015 compared to one year ago. Think again. The drought remains in full force, and if you can believe it, it’s worse.

California’s declining Tricolored Blackbird population can expect some much-needed support in the near future thanks to recent collaborative efforts between dairy, conservation and farming groups.

It was one for the history books: 2014 marked the third straight season of extraordinary low rainfall and extreme drought, the worst in 1,200 years according to a recent study.

California dairy farms are recognized the world over as models for efficiently producing safe, nutritious and high quality milk. In a not-so-distant future, more of our state’s dairy farms have the potential to produce another important product for consumers and the planet: Clean, green, renewable energy through the use of biogas digesters.

Sustainability is a commitment made daily by California dairy families. This means ongoing stewardship and protection of our planet’s limited natural resources, responsible care for animals, and delivery of healthy, safe and nutritious dairy products to millions of consumers.

So it is with great pleasure that Dairy Cares members note the accomplishment of Marin County dairy farmer Bob Giacomini, who became the second California dairy farmer in as many years to receive the prestigious Leopold Conservation Award.

San Joaquin Valley air quality reached a historic milestone last year. For the first time since the adoption of the federal Clean Air Act, the region experienced zero annual violations of the 1-hour ozone standard. Now, it appears that the record-low levels of ozone were observed for a second straight summer.

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