Since California's Waste Discharge Requirements for dairies arrived in 2007, producers have turned for help to the California Dairy Quality Assurance Program's (CDQAP) Environmental Stewardship module.
The education-through-compliance program offers a three-step curriculum of classroom and on-farm assistance.
Step 1 focuses on education. Dairy producers must complete six hours of education courses water quality and two hours of air quality education courses. Personnel from the University of California-Cooperative Extension personnel teach the CDQAP courses. They cover environmental issues, regulatory requirements, facility evaluation, best management practices and management plan creation.
In Step 2, producers evaluate their own specific farm conditions and prepare individual nutrient management plans.
Once those are completed, producers move on to Step 3. Dairies are eligible for independent, third-party compliance evaluations to assess their facilities. If they pass, dairies become certified for environmental stewardship.
Environmental compliance has become important enough that California-based Hilmar Cheese Co. is requiring its producers to go through the CDQAP curriculum by June 30, 2010.
A voluntary organization, CDQAP is made up of 17 regulatory agencies, dairy organizations, environmental advocacy groups and the University of California.