DeGroot is a third-generation California dairy producer whose San Joaquin Valley operation milks 2,400 cows.
**Extended comments highlighted in blue.
I’ve heard it said, and I’ve said it myself: "You have to take care of what takes care of you."
It’s true in all areas of our businesses, families, finances and everyday lives. It’s especially true when it comes to dairying. We have a responsibility to take care of our cows, employees, facilities, equipment and the land we use to raise our cattle and grow our feed.
Unfortunately, all that responsibility means that we must abide by many rules and regulations, not to mention paying all applicable fees. It’s very easy to get bogged down by all the pressures of regulations, but there is no way around them in today’s world of dairying.
One of our biggest environmental tasks comes from the Central Valley Regional Water Quality Control Board. It’s almost impossible to stay in compliance with all the regulations without the help of an outside consulting firm. We have used the Source Group for several years to make sure we not only are in compliance on farm but also to ensure that all the paperwork and reporting is done correctly and on time.
We must pay fees for our annual permit to operate, conduct monthly self-inspections in the summer months and weekly self-inspections in the winter months, and be on alert for a random inspection at any time. Self-inspections include things such as monitoring lagoon levels, land erosion, weed pressure, rodent activity, corral ponding and more.
In addition, we must send in quarterly solid manure and lagoon water samples. We also must send in fresh water samples from all wells (agriculture and domestic) once annually. The final requirement is pulling samples of all feed harvested from fields that received lagoon water or manure application. The water quality board requires annual reporting. It’s not hard to understand why we must use a consultant to help keep everything in order.
Right next to water quality is air quality. Although air quality isn’t an issue for dairies in all states, it’s definitely an issue for California. The San Joaquin Valley Air Pollution Control District hasn’t been as intense as the water quality board, but it’s heading in that direction. There is a required annual fee for our air permit and also a long list of mitigations that we must practice on our farm.
These mitigations include, but are not limited to: routinely scraping corrals, watering dirt roads, covering silage, facing silage, covering dry manure, composting manure and using a separator.
Most of these things should already be part of our management practices as dairymen. Every dairy is different, so not all mitigations apply to all farms. The air board conducts an inspection every 18 months to verify that we have followed the mitigations outlined for our dairy and that we have properly recorded them. They also want to know how often our diesel generator is used. There is no annual reporting for the air board, but we better have all our paperwork in order for the 18-month inspection.