Tackling Climate Change with Calif. Dairy Industry

California’s dairy cows produce 20% of the milk we drink in the United States, but the manure they produce is also the largest source of California’s methane emissions. We’re helping dairies throughout the state combat methane’s big impacts on human health and our environment through smarter regulation, innovative technologies and practices, and other forward-looking approaches to make farmers part of the solution. Besides reducing greenhouse gases, our solutions protect resources local communities depend on, like groundwater, and keeps California leading in environmental protections.

The Problem

Harmful greenhouse gases will continue impacting the health of California’s communities, environment and economy.

The Potential

California achieves lasting methane reductions and keeps leading in environmental protections, with the dairy industry as an active part of the solution. 

Building a Toolbox for Methane Reductions

California is committed to reducing its greenhouse gas emissions. Short-lived climate pollutants like methane enter our atmosphere more quickly than carbon dioxide, and do more damage over a short period of time. The number one source of methane emissions in California is dairy manure, and if we can help the industry find ways to manage their manure to achieve real methane reductions, we’ll also see benefits over a shorter period of time. Methane digesters convert methane from cow waste into clean, renewable energy and fuel, but this costly technology is only feasible for very large dairy operations. Dairies of all shapes and sizes need manure management solutions that fit their budgets while meeting new regulatory targets. Without these solutions, dairies might leave California for other states – and take their emissions with them.

It’s estimated that California’s nearly 2 million dairy cows produce more than 50% of the state’s methane emissions – with about 30% coming from cow belching and the rest from manure.

Sound Policy, Lasting Results

We’re working with state agencies and other stakeholders to determine how regulations are implemented because we see an opportunity to guide real solutions with sound policy, informed investment and multi-stakeholder participation. California’s recent legislation and investment in reducing methane means we have a chance to reduce GHGs in ways that provide multiple environmental benefits, like cleaner water and clearer air.

California’s dairy industry produces 20% of all milk consumed in the country, generates more than $9 billion in revenue and 30,000 on-farm jobs each year, and is a key partner in the state’s greenhouse-gas solution.

We’ve worked on the ground for nearly two decades to understand methane digesters and to implement manure management practices. As a result, we understand what technologies are available and where we need more research, funding and innovation to reduce emissions. Several new regulations also include funding for manure management strategies, and many of these strategies show promising environmental co-benefits, like groundwater and air quality protection.

If we can target this funding toward building a suite of options for dairy producers, we can keep the industry in the state to achieve lasting greenhouse gas reductions for the future.

Highlights

Partners

Dairy Cares

CalBio

CalCAN

California Air Resources Board

Craig Frear, PhD

Joseph Gallo Farms

San Joaquin Valley Air Pollution Control District

UCLA Institute of the Environment and Sustainability

Western United Dairymen

From our blog

2017 Leopold Conservation Award Finalist: C. Jeff Thomson International

When Jeff Thomson thinks about conservation, he doesn’t just think about his individual fields. From the people you work with to the practices you implement, stewarding the land and its resources for the future takes constant care and balance. C. Jeff Thomson International’s diversified operations and wetland management make them a fantastic candidate for the…

Read more

2017 Leopold Conservation Award Finalist: Rollin Valley Farms

  What does a sustainable dairy look like? Brothers Donny and Andy Rollin have been farming their entire lives with that question in mind. Sweet Haven Dairy’s commitment to animal, crop and environmental health make them an ideal candidate for the 2017 Leopold Conservation Award. The Rollin brothers are third-generation dairy farmers who came to…

Read more

2017 Leopold Conservation Award Finalist: Lundberg Family Farms

When we think of organic rice in California, there’s a reason why the first name that comes to mind is Lundberg. Lundberg Family Farms’ model of sustainability, from their fields to our tables, makes them a perfect candidate for the 2017 Leopold Conservation Award. A multi-generational farming operation begun in 1937, brothers Eldon, Wendell, Harlan…

Read more

Related Initiatives