New Air Quality Regulation: A Milestone for California Dairies

November 13, 2010 12:39 PM

As new Rule 4570 is adopted, dairy families credited for efforts to improve air quality

Source: Dairy Cares
Just a few years ago, air quality officials viewed the dairy industry with skepticism. They saw dairies as a large part of the San Joaquin Valley’s air quality problem, and sometimes portrayed dairies as unwilling to do their part to improve air quality.
Thankfully, times have changed. This month marked another major step forward in an improved working relationship between Valley dairy families and air quality officials. On October 21, the air district adopted a revised version of its air quality regulations for dairies, known as Rule 4570. The new version of this rule for valley livestock operations, including dairies, will further reduce emissions in a practical, cost-effective manner.
As the San Joaquin Valley Air Pollution Control District Governing Board adopted the new rule, its members repeatedly recognized and credited the dairy industry and individual dairy operators for their work to improve air quality in the valley over the past several years. Board members thanked dairy industry organizations for investments in research needed to keep the rule practical and cost-effective. Several Board members reported that they had visited dairies and personally witnessed the efforts of dairy families to reduce air emissions.
Air district managers also recognized that as a whole, dairies are responsible for just 1 percent of the valley’s ozone problem. Though this is a comparatively small share, they noted that many businesses, some with even smaller shares of the emissions, have been regulated over the years. They reported that these small reductions have added up, resulting in a nearly 60 percent reduction in valley pollution since 1980.
The new Rule 4570 is based on management practices developed by the air district from the latest emissions research, with input from dairy organizations, University of California scientists, and other stakeholders. Dairy Cares coalition members made every effort throughout the process to ensure that the adopted rule is manageable for dairy families.
The original Rule 4570, adopted in 2006, has been widely viewed as a success story. Not only did the rule reduce emissions from dairies by more than 25 percent, it included practices that dairies were able to adopt and make part of their daily routine, without incurring unreasonable costs or operational disruptions. While the new Rule 4570 has some important differences, it is hoped that it, too, will be a success story, with minimal disruption to daily operations, and manageable costs.
How Rule 4570 differs from the earlier version
The new rule covers dairies with 500 or more milking cows, while the earlier version applied only to dairies with more than 1,000 cows. Another important difference is that while the older version of the rule focused on reducing emissions only from cows and manure, the new rule puts more emphasis on silage emissions. That’s because the latest research shows that feed is a more important source of smog-forming emissions than manure or cows. So the new rule includes more practices related to reducing emissions from silage.
As before, dairy producers will also have time and help as they work to understand and implement the new rules. Permit applications for the new rule aren’t due until April 2011. The California Dairy Quality Assurance Program will provide free informational workshops across the San Joaquin Valley in early 2011, to ensure that dairies receive the information and assistance they need to remain up-to-date on air quality compliance. Once applications are filed and permits are issued, dairies will have a year to come into full compliance with the rule.
While any new regulation poses costs and burdens, Rule 4570 can truly be viewed as a milestone for the dairy industry and air quality officials. Dairy families and air quality officials have partnered to ensure that valley air quality continues to improve and that the economic sustainability of dairies is protected. By giving well-deserved credit to dairy families for their efforts so far, the air district is helping to ensure that this productive partnership continues for years to come.
Dairy Cares is a statewide coalition supporting economic and environmental sustainability and responsible animal care. Our members include the Alliance of Western Milk Producers, Bank of the West, Bar 20 Dairy Farms, California Dairies Inc., California Dairy Campaign, California Farm Bureau Federation, Dairy Farmers of America-Western Area Council, Dairy Institute of California, Hilmar Cheese Co., HP Hood, Joseph Gallo Farms, Land O’Lakes, Milk Producers Council, Ruan Transport Corp., Western United Dairymen, and others. For information, visit the Dairy Cares web site or call 916-441-3318.

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