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Dairy industry says state law will devastate its livelihood
California lawmakers are making it very hard on dairymen and the industry says many may leave the state or go under. - photo by Contributed to the Courier

California dairy farmers are claiming that a strict climate change law known as the Super Pollutant Reduction Act, which was signed by Gov. Jerry Brown last month, will devastate the industry and force many more dairies throughout the state to close their doors.

Authored by Senator Ricardo Lara (D-Bell Gardens), this law sets goals to achieve a 40 percent reduction in methane emissions from dairy farms, along with a 50 percent reduction in black carbon emissions a 40 percent reduction in hydrofluorocarbon gases, in the state of California by 2030. The State Air Resources Board has until Jan. 1, 2018 to determine how these goals will be met.

Under this law, the State Air Resources Board must consult with the California Department of Food and Agriculture to adopt regulations to reduce methane emissions from livestock manure management operations and dairy manure management operations. These regulations are required to take effect in 2024.

In response to the bill's passing, Dairy Cares, a statewide coalition of dairies, families and businesses, said California dairy farming families have a track record of reducing greenhouse gas emissions and have significantly reduced the carbon "hoofprint" of a glass of milk through the innovative use of new technologies.

"Further reductions contemplated by state regulators, particularly on the aggressive schedule called for under SB 1383, will be far more costly and difficult to obtain for California's dairy families," said Dairy Cares in a statement. "Equally important, the state's targets for dairy manure methane emissions are not just the most ambitious in the nation, but the only such requirements being placed on dairy farmers anywhere in the world."

As part of Dairy Cares, the California Dairy Campaign, based in Turlock, joined the rest of the state's dairy industry in voicing their concerns about the law's call for reduced methane emissions.

Executive Director Lynne McBride said that in the first five months of 2016, 53 dairies across the state closed their doors as California dairy farmers are routinely the lowest paid of any in the nation.

"Dairy farmers in our state have been enduring mounting losses since prices paid to dairy producers began to decline in later 2014," said McBride. "In terms of the numbers of dairies going out of business, 2016 is proving to be worse than the worst year in memory-2009-when we saw 100 dairies go out of business."

McBride said that according to the latest available mailbox price data, California dairy producers received $13.54 per cwt in June, the second lowest income of the 23 major milk producing states reported by the United States Department of Agriculture. According to the latest CDFA cost of production report, the average cost to produce milk in California in the second quarter of 2016 totaled $17.87 per cwt, more than $4 per cwt higher than average income.

"Dairy farmers are not able to pass on increased costs and another increase in regulatory costs will present an additional challenge for dairy farm families who are already struggling to remain in operation in California due to mounting financial losses," said McBride. "It is critical that resources and incentives are made available to dairy farmers to achieve air and water environmental goals."