Boldly going where no cow has gone before

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. Our dairy farm families are especially proud to be reaching new heights in reducing our dependence on fossil fuels and protecting the environment we all share. Here are four ways in which California dairies are exploring new territory.

     Dairy methane reduction projects continue to develop across California dairies. There are 16 dairy digesters, which capture methane, currently in operation and dozens more projects under construction or in the planning stages. Through the increased adoption of digesters, dairy families are leading the way, in not only reducing greenhouse gas emissions, but creating clean, renewable energy.

“California dairy families are true pioneers—using innovation and cutting-edge research to redefine dairy farming for the nation. While the process has its challenges – it demonstrates the perseverance and dedication of a dynamic and vital industry to our state.”

 – California Department of Food and Agriculture Secretary Karen Ross

     Turning dairy manure into renewable carbon-negative transportation fuel is the latest frontier being explored. A sustainable transportation fuel pilot project is already underway in Kern County, where a cluster of dairy digesters will soon provide transportation fuel to replace diesel used in trucks and other heavy-duty vehicles. Plans for another five projects are currently being developed with the California Public Utilities Commission, Air Resources Board, and Department of Food and Agriculture.

     California’s family dairy farms are increasingly powered by the sun. Dairies across the Central Valley are generating an unparalleled amount of solar energy and helping our state achieve its ambitious renewable energy goals. In Tulare County alone, there are more than 35 solar projects on dairy farms, with an average energy capacity of one megawatt. According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, on an annual basis, a single project this size will offset the equivalent of greenhouse gas emissions from 297 passenger vehicles driven for one year.

     Water scarcity is an emerging global problem. California dairy farms and milk processors are doing their part by exploring water-use efficiency practices, such as drip irrigation used for corn, alfalfa, and other feed crops, while expanding the recycling and reuse of water on farms and in milk processing facilities. Efforts like these go a long way in further reducing the water “hoofprint” of every gallon of milk produced in California and demonstrate for the rest of the world how to reduce our dependence on increasingly scarce natural resources.

Dairy farming is an ever-changing and challenging enterprise. California’s dairy farm families continue to meet that challenge by leading the way, exploring new frontiers, and adopting sustainable farming practices.

One small step for cow, one giant leap for the global environment we all share.

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