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Conditions on Dairy Farms

May 09, 1998

"State Dairy Farms Try to Clean Up Their Act" (April 28) states that much of the 55 billion pounds of cow manure generated each year ends up in our waterways and that "state and federal inspectors suspect that a majority of California's 2,400 dairies are illegally allowing manure to pollute water." We believe these are irresponsible and unsubstantiated statements.

Most dairy families are doing a good job of managing their operations. Per-cow production of milk has greatly increased since 1987, thereby reducing the number of cows needed to meet demand. This is being accomplished through improved nutrition and environmental conditions for dairy cows, which reduce the amount of waste for each gallon of milk produced.

The statement that "many dairies wind up with too much manure and not enough land to spread it on" is counter to research conducted in 1995. In several Central Valley counties, the average ratio of mature cattle to acreage available for manure application was well within, or much better than, the recommended guidelines. The dairy industry is working hard to maintain agricultural-environ- mental balance while still providing reasonably priced, nutritious food. The California Dairy Quality Assurance Program has taken recent action to assure all dairymen have access to the latest information and techniques to manage waste.

GARY CONOVER, Vice President

Western United Dairymen

Modesto

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The USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service offers technical assistance and, when available, financial assistance to dairies that have serious resource conservation problems. We are also sponsoring, in partnership with the Milk Producers Council and Western United Dairymen, a course in environmental stewardship. The best solution to the environmental problems facing the dairy industry lies in informed producers voluntarily practicing sound, responsible resource management. This is also the best way for producers to avoid costly enforcement actions and the loss in herd productivity that can result from improper manure management.

HELEN R. FLACH

Assistant State Conservationist

USDA Natural Resources

Conservation Service, Davis

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