California’s industrial-style, factory farm dairy industry began a rapid expansion in the 1990s and now is one of the leading air, climate, and groundwater polluters in the San Joaquin Valley. After Arvin residents asked for help in 1998, CRPE launched our dairy work by stopping several, massive dairy proposals. Working with communities, CRPE has made a huge impact on this problem by successfully forcing transparency and accountability, ending an agricultural exemption for air quality controls, and working to impose the most stringent air pollution controls in the United States.
Even with this critical reform, dairies remain a huge problem. Corn silage, used as food for the cattle, alone at dairies creates the most smog-forming air pollution in the Valley. Huge liquid manure lagoons are the largest sources of both ammonia and methane, an extremely powerful global warming gas. This decomposing waste along with cows’ rumination emit almost half of all methane in California, far more than any other source. These manure lagoons lack protective liners, so contaminants impair groundwater with harmful levels of nitrates and salt.
More recently, CRPE has led a collaboration of allies who work together on reducing the industry’s methane emissions while calling for systemic reform. Pasture-based dairy operations reduce air and methane pollution, utilize pasture as way to absorb carbon dioxide, and benefit rural communities. Through policy and legal efforts, CRPE advocates for a more just and less polluting dairy industry.