New Mexico dairy interests spent last week testifying before the state's Environment Department about proposed regulations for discharging dairy wastewater.
In New Mexico, where groundwater is the major source of water for humans as well as farms, the state's dairy industry has been negotiating with the Environment Department to determine the specifics of new water-quality regulations.
"This is critical for us,” said Sharon Lombardi, executive director of Dairy Producers of New Mexico.”We understand the need to regulate and protect groundwater, but we want sound science to dictate the regulations. Right now, many of the proposed regulations are not based on good science.”
State legislation passed last year required New Mexico's Water Quality Control Commission to identify specific requirements for discharging dairy wastewater to protect groundwater quality.
Some 150 dairies operate in New Mexico. The Environment Department says more than 65 percent of them have polluted groundwater beneath their facilities.
Under the still-forming regulations, all dairies will be required to have a discharge permit. Department proposals include protective liners for lagoons and monitoring wells to indicate any groundwater pollution.
Dairy interests have testified at the hearings in Santa Fe to make sure that the new regulations are not unattainable or so costly they threaten dairies' viability, Lombardi said.
New Mexico ranks ninth in U.S. milk production, churning out 676 million pounds in March 2010, according to today's milk production report from USDA's National Agricultural Statistics Service. That was down 3.8% from March 2009.
The state is home to 321,000 milk cows, USDA-NASS reported.
See the proposed water quality regulations for New Mexico dairies at: /files/RevisedDairyRegs.pdf.
Catherine Merlo is Western editor for Dairy Today. You can reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.