CBS SAN FRANCISCO (KPIX 5)
Got milk? Chances are it’s from California. There are more dairy cows in the Golden State than anywhere else in the country. But all that milk and cheese comes at a cost to the planet.
Tom Frantz keeps a running count. He says dairy farms have taken over his farming community in the San Joaquin Valley. “There are ten of them within what I call smelling distance of my home,” he said, noting they’ve moved in in just the last 10 years.
We’re not talking about mom-and-pop operations.
“These are milk factories,” said Frantz. “We went from zero cows to about 60,000 cows, within about five miles of where I live.”
“6,000 animals in one dairy has the waste stream of a city of half a million people,” said Frantz.
But unlike a city, most dairies don’t treat their waste. After separating out the solids to use as manure, they dump the rest of the waste into open lagoons and let it evaporate.
“This waste stream is just rotting in these giant lagoons,” said Frantz.
It’s not just the smell. The lagoons of manure also emit methane, and lots of it. If you account for climate impacts over 100 years, which is the basis of AB 32, dairy and livestock operations are directly responsible for 5.4 percent of the state’s greenhouse gas emissions. But in the state’s short-lived climate pollution plan, that uses a 20-year global warming accounting. The impact triples to 15 percent.
“They are incredibly potent climate pollutants,” said Ryan McCarthy, Science & Technology Policy Advisor with the California Air Resources Board. “Really tackling and addressing the way that dairies manage their manure would represent one of the most significant climate programs we have in the state,” said McCarthy.