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Published On: Thu, Dec 1st, 2016

Farmers pushing back against California’s regulation of cow emissions to battle global warming as ‘foolish’

California is taking its fight against global warming to the farm as Gov. Jerry Brown signed legislation which regulates “heat-trapping gases” from livestock operations and landfills. Farmers pressed back this week against the signed law arguing it will almost certainly kill off California’s once-thriving dairy farms.

“We think it’s very foolish for the state of California to be taking this position,” Rob Vandenheuvel, the head of the Milk Producers Council, told reporters Wednesday. “A single state like California is not going to make a meaningful impact on the climate.”

The regulations will cause dairy farms to migrate to states where labor costs and regulations are lower, said Paul Sousa, the director of environmental services for Western United Dairymen.

photo/hajor

photo/hajor

“It just makes it more challenging,” he said. “We’re continuing to lose dairies. Dairies are moving out of state to places where these costs don’t exist.”

California’s environmental resources board said the legislation was a crucial in fighting global warming.

“If we can reduce emissions of methane, we can really help to slow global warming,” said Ryan McCarthy, a science adviser for the California Air Resources Board.

“We expect that this package … and everything we’re doing on climate, does show an effective model forward for others,” McCarthy said.

Methane emissions, which are released when cows belch or pass gas, cause approximately 25 times more global warming per unit of gas than carbon dioxide (CO2) over a time period of 100 years, according to the EPA.

State regulators want more farmers to reduce emissions with methane digesters, which capture methane from manure in large storage tanks and convert the gas into electricity.

The state has set aside $50 million to help dairies set up digesters, but farmers say that’s not nearly enough to equip the state’s roughly 1,500 dairies.

“The bottom line is it’s going to negatively impact the economics of the California dairy industry,” Van Groningen said of the new law. “In the dairy business, the margins are so slim that something like this will force us out of state.”

State officials say they’re committed to making sure the new regulations work for farmers and the environment.

“There’s a real opportunity here to get very significant emissions reductions at fairly low cost, and actually in a way that can bring economic benefits to farmers,” McCarthy said.

Photo by Liz Roll/FEMA

Photo by Liz Roll/FEMA

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About the Author

- Catherine "Kaye" Wonderhouse, a proud descendant of the Wunderhaus family is the Colorado Correspondent who will add more coverage, interviews and reports from this midwest area.

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