Monthly Columns

In coming weeks, California dairy families will step forward with a new, pioneering initiative to further protect and improve water quality across the great Central Valley.

Thanks to a two-year effort by the Dairy Cares coalition and a dedicated group of dairymen from around the Central Valley, a special program that will help protect the environment, while significantly cutting costs for dairy operators, is about to launch.

Farmers know the statistic well – less than 2 percent of the U.S. population is directly involved in the day-to-day production of our nation’s food and fiber. Coupled with the fact most people are three to four generations removed from farm life, it comes as no surprise that consumers have questions about the hows and whys of farming, especially as they relate to farm animals. Many are simply seeking assurance that animals on today’s farms are treated ethically and responsibly by farmers.
A decade ago, too much of the discussion about dairies and air quality was based on guesswork. Little was known about the air emissions of our nation’s livestock facilities, and even less about what could be done about them.
There’s no question that air quality regulators have a tough job to do in the San Joaquin Valley.
Surrounded by mountains on three sides, the valley is almost perfectly designed to block out
prevailing winds and trap pollution. Long, hot summers make the problem worse, “cooking” the
basic ingredients of smog until they can form ozone, which irritates lung tissue and threatens our

It is an indisputable fact that in the past four years, California dairy families have invested more than $150 million in landmark water quality protection efforts. And her are a few other such facts:

Thanks to an unprecedented outreach and communications effort by California dairy organizations, a two-month membership drive for the Central Valley Dairy Representative Monitoring Program (CVDRMP) was a huge success.

California dairy families will remember 2010 as one of the most economically challenging years in history. Those who were able to survive record drops in milk prices in 2009 had hoped 2010 would be the year of recovery. Unfortunately, spikes in feed prices and other costs have left many dairy families, already weakened by the previous crisis, disappointed and still struggling to recover.

Editor’s note: Due to the importance of a new opportunity for Central Valley dairies to join a groundwater monitoring coalition, we are devoting this month’s column to reprinting a recent article from Ag Alert about the Central Valley Dairy Representative Monitoring Program.

By Tom Barcellos