Session 5 Journal
Footprints, every individual leaves a footprint of some sort on this earth. As dairy people it is important that we strive to leave a positive footprint on this earth that we inhabit. Education on environmental issues is one way to gain the knowledge that will help the dairy industry leave that positive footprint.
Session 5 of the Dairy Leadership Program was
held Nov. 29-30, 2004 at the office of Western United Dairymen in Modesto,
California. Our session was to cover environmental issues with guest speakers
from universities, state agencies, private industry, and environmental advocate
Our morning began with Bill Jennings,
an environmentalist who works with DeltaKeepers, an organization in alliance
with 126 other Keepers groups across America that have volunteered to monitor
the national waterways. DeltaKeepers samples and analyzes water from the San
Francisco Bay, the Delta, and Petaluma; their mission is to bring water issues
to public scrutiny. Their definition of environment is the air we breathe and
the water we drink. DeltaKeepers hold the belief that growth is ultimately
limited by the amount of waste that is produced, and that there needs to be a
process for letting “stuff” out into waterways. Some of the claims made by Mr.
Jennings were that “More people die from the water they drink than from
terrorist attacks;” “Eight out of 1,000 people will suffer and/or die from a
gastro-intestinal sickness brought on by drinking water or swimming in it;” “Our
bodies now contain hundreds of inorganic organisms that have been introduce by
the environment we live in;” and “An average size dairy produces the same amount
of ‘waste’ per day as a city of 28,000 people.” Bill Jennings emphasized that
the dairy industry did not have the economic basis to properly take care of its
“waste”. To help solve this problem, DeltaKeepers believe that there should be
environmental taxes to subsidize the farmer. Over all, Mr. Jennings and
DeltaKeepers do not see equality in the quality of life and the growth
projections for our state.
The next speaker was Allen Dusault, senior
project manager of Sustainable Conservation, a nonprofit group that strives
to bridge the gap between state and federal agencies, the environmentalist
interests, and the agricultural industry. Mr. Dusault’s view of an
environmentalist is an urbanite that has little to no understanding of the
workings of agriculture. In Allen’s experience, he has found that most
environmentalists do want to see land continue to be in agricultural production
rather than covered with houses. He sees this view as a common ground between
what seems to be a widening gap between the farmers and the environmentalists.
Sustainable Conservation understands that to be environmentally sustainable
means that agriculture also has to be economically sustainable. So, Sustainable
Conservation works to provide information through projects, promotion, and
education. Some of the projects they work with are nutrient management, manure
exportation, conservation tillage, and purple bacteria. One of the major
challenges they come up against is how to introduce environmentally friendly
change into normal practice.
Charles Krauter, Ph.D., professor of soils
and waters for California State University, Fresno, is studying what changes
should be put into normal practice. Mr. Krauter is currently involved in an air
quality research project to study O3, the fine particle pollutants PM10
and PM2.5. PM (particulate matter) is particles that are small
enough to stay suspended in the air. They consist of mineral material (dust),
and soot or smoke material (carbon). These affect air quality, which is of major
concern for us in the Central Valley. As Dr. Krauter explained, the air in the
Central Valley is in its worst state in the winter when the winter inversion
traps the fine particles in the fog. The particles stay suspended low to the
ground until they are dispersed by winds or a winter storm. (PM can and does
cause health problems, mostly respiratory). Dr. Krauter went on to explain that
ozone (O3) is found in bleach. When O3 is in the upper
atmosphere, it is good because it absorbs the UV light; but when it is low, it
is bad because of the photochemical reaction that causes smog. In his research,
Dr. Krauter is studying the ammonia levels on a dairy facility. Ammonia attaches
to particulate matter, creating PM2.5. He measures what is in the air
upwind from a dairy facility, on the dairy facility, at the lagoon site, and off
or downwind from the dairy facility. Through this research Dr. Krauter is hoping
to better understand the dairy industry contribution to air quality, or lack of
it, in the Central Valley. This will enable the dairy industry to better manage
our contribution to air quality.
As director of environmental health of Merced
County, Jeff Palsgaard takes a unique view of regulating the environmental
issues that the dairy industry faces. Merced County is the most proactive county
in the state in regulating its own dairies (350). They have proposed a unique
local regulatory program consisting of a county use permit, Regional Water
Quality Control Board (RWQCB) requirements, and air district requirements.
Merced County believes that the regulatory program ought to be enforced at the
local level and not at a federal or state level. Merced County was the first
county to perform a countywide Environmental Impact Report to help county
dairies in the permitting process. Mr. Palsgaard believes that it is much more
efficient having one local inspector to review water and air issues for dairy
Ending our day of speakers at the WUD office,
Tom Terpstra from the law offices of Herum Crabtree Brown, led us through
the process of building a new dairy facility and the regulations that affect
dairies. At the local level, the dairyman must follow the local land use
regulations, which usually consist of: the general plan, zoning classifications,
and conditional use permits. At the state level, the dairyman needs to comply
with the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA), Porter-Cologne (clean
water), Subdivision Map Act, Williamson Act (lower property taxes for keeping
land in agricultural use), California Endangered Species Act (requiring a
biological assessment of the property), and the California Clean Air Act. Moving
up to the federal level, again the dairyman needs to comply with the Clean Air
Act, Clean Water Act, and the Endangered Species Act (as defined by our federal
government), and the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). As if this list
were not daunting enough, the dairyman also needs to be concerned with the
ethical considerations of building a new site, dealing with such Acts as the
Brown Act (all decisions made affecting public business must be made public).
This leaves the dairyman exposed to environmentalists imposing their concerns
over a new dairy being built in the community.
The second day of Session 5 began with Martha
Guzman, a legislative advocate from California Rural Legal Assistance (CRLA).
Ms. Guzman appeared to have a negative view of WUD, due in part to the questions
WUD raised concerning CRLA funding and support of organizations involved in
political activities, which is proscribed by Congress. The questions raised by
WUD lead to an investigation of CRLA as a recipient of federal grants. In her
comments to Michael Marsh, Ms. Guzman opened the door for him to explain and
clarify the findings of the investigation. Through Mr. Marsh’s explanation it
became apparent that she was not as familiar with the findings as she thought.
In the ensuing discussion, we did find some common ground in labor issues, and
the desire to have the employees that work for us that are legal and properly
papered. Ms. Guzman definitely demonstrated to us the importance of being
prepared on the topics we choose to cover, and to be familiar with the target
Jonathan Kaplan, M.E.M., director of the
Sustainable Agriculture project Health and Environment Program with Natural
Resources Defense Council (NRDC), spoke to us on behalf of the
environmentalist concerns about the dairy industry’s impact on the environment.
His main points were manure in the waters of the state, breakdown of water
quality, algae buildup, and breakdown and depletion of Ozone. He claimed that
there were 192 water bodies labeled as impaired. Mr. Kaplan explained that these
are some of the main concerns of the environmentalists he represents, and he
stressed the importance of working together to make the environment better. He
felt that it was important that a common ground be found, and that somehow, each
side needed to back up and look at the big picture.
A concern we all face is air quality. Patrick
Gaffney, an air pollution specialist from the Air Resources Board spoke on
dairy air emissions and its effect on air quality. There are three basic
agencies that monitor air quality: at the federal level it is the Environmental
Protection Agency; the Air Resources Board is at the state level; and the
state’s 35 Air Pollution Control Districts regulate on the local level. All of
these agencies scrutinize the concerns of the atmosphere and ozone. Of
particular interest in California are the toxins in air coming from vehicles,
industry, gas stations, and livestock operations. Dairy emissions are seen to be
the largest single source of reactive organic gases (ROGs), and also a source of
ammonia, methane and particulate matter. It is important to note that the United
States is the only country in the world that measures ROG, and that the numbers
used to estimate the amount of ROG produced by dairies is from a limited study
done in the 1930s. Regulators, academia, environmentalists, and the dairy
industry need to work closely together to evaluate and validate dairy emissions,
and to that end, there is a large effort underway to understand dairy emissions.
Yet, it seems that in the meantime, regulatory decisions will be made with
incomplete and/or inadequate science.
Changing our focus a bit, Carolina Simunovic
from Fresno Metro Ministry spoke to us about environmental justice.
Environmental justice is also known as social justice or human rights. As Ms.
Simunovic stated, “It is not about the bunnies, fairy shrimp or hugging trees,”
it is about keeping everyone safe and helping implement laws to do so. Fresno
Metro Ministry is an organization that works mostly with low-income citizens to
educate them in the services available, and if warranted, to fight “big
industry” moving in to their back yard. One current case of interest to Fresno
Metro Ministry is the dairy growth in Wasco, located in Kern County. Wasco
expects an influx of 150,000 cows into the area around a town of 22,000
inhabitants. Fresno Metro Ministry’s concern is the connection of quality of
life to the need for business.
Bringing our attention back to air and water,
John Menke from the State Water Resources Control Board gave us some history
on environmental protection issues in California and an overview of the water
board’s regulatory program. For regulators, there are two classifications of
water pollution, point source and nonpoint source. Point source pollution is
from an identifiable entity that discharges waste. Confined animal facilities
(CAFs) are considered a point source. Nonpoint source pollution related to
agriculture activities would be the diffused nature of the pollutant, with a
source that is hard to identify or coming from no specific point. Most dairies
fall under the Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations (CAFOs) which is an animal
feeding operation (AFO) that meets the criteria contained in federal
regulations. These regulations are set to monitor the Constituents of Concern (COC),
which is any material that can adversely affect the quality of the waters of the
state. For CAFOs, these are ammonia, nitrates, and salts. CAFOs can affect the
surfaces waters by improper discharge of manure and lagoon waters, and they can
affect the ground water by the improper storage and/or application of effluent
to farmed land. Regulatory programs are being put in place to regulate CAFOs.
Under federal law, CAFOs must be regulated with a National Pollutant Discharge
Elimination System (NPDES) permit and/or by a regional board general waste
discharge requirement (WDR). The fees for such permits range annually from $200
to nearly $4,000 based on the discharger’s threat to water quality. Methods to
prevent water degradation include installing backflow devices and becoming
educated in water quality issues. The more one knows, the easier it is to stay
in compliance. The California dairy industry has developed the California Dairy
Quality Assurance Program (CDQAP) to assist dairy operators who want to comply
with state and federal environmental regulations and implement best management
Holly King, agricultural programs manager for
the Great Valley Center, works to promote an awareness of the issues that
face agriculture in the Valley. They are working to raise the awareness of the
unique nature of the San Joaquin Valley for urbanites that live, work and visit
the region, and to understand how the Valley affects the rest of the world.
Great Valley Center’s concern is the social and economic well being of the
Central Valley, and it serves as a resource for information on land in
agricultural use, farmland lost to urbanization, and strategies to keep land in
farm use. Ms. King, through a series of slides, showed us the change that the
Central Valley is going through and helped to make us aware of the urban growth
that may happen if the agricultural industry fails to make some changes.
Ending our day and the last class for the
California Dairy Leaders Class III, we heard from Bill Mattos, president of
the California Poultry Federation. Mr. Mattos spoke about what he sees as
key issues for the livestock and farming industry over the next year in the area
of animal welfare, food safety, environment, and bio-security. Mr. Mattos
encouraged us as an industry to be proactive, to become educated prior to
problems developing, and to be involved in coalitions, politics and education.
To quote Mr. Mattos’ words to his poultry producers, “If you are a bad producer,
we must soon put you out of business rather than allow you to continue to be a
bad producer.” As hard-nosed as this seems, it also is becoming increasingly
necessary. As the world around us becomes more educated and environmentally
concerned, we as a dairy industry need to become more conscious of the affects
that a bad footprint by a bad producer can incite, and the daunting task of
trying to regain confidence in our markets and the communities around us.
As a class, it seems these couple days of environmental awareness pointed out a few important issues. It is important to become educated from both sides and be willing to do a lot of listening. We can better handle environmentalist concerns if we truly understand where they are coming from and what, if any, common ground we can build from. As an industry, we have a lot of research yet to do to become truly aware of our impact on our environment. Not only our environment of air and water, but the environment that consists of the businesses, communities and people that surround us. To go forward as a respected industry in this state, and the rest of the world, we need to be conscientious of impact our footprint will leave on our earth.