Central Valley

Dairies increase testing to meet new requirements

California dairies are being tested more than ever — literally — since the state began rolling out new water-discharge regulations last year and issuing new reporting requirements.

The Central Valley Regional Water Quality Control Board, which enforces the regulations, has estimated the new rules will cost a typical farm $45,000 to $60,000 in the first year and $30,000 to $40,000 per year after that.

Those in the industry say they’re trying to comply.

Western United Dairymen, a Modesto-based organization representing dairies that produce more than 60% of California’s milk, has provided help meeting testing requirements through its Western United Environmental Services division. About 200 of the Central Valley’s 1,600 dairy farmers have signed up.

“We’re trying to help producers contain those costs,” said Michael Marsh, CEO of Western United Dairymen. He said the added expenses could otherwise force some operations out of business.

Four laboratories, including two in Fresno, have joined with the Western United service organization to test water-quality samples taken at dairies to prevent pollution from cow manure. The partnerships are with Dellavalle Laboratory Inc. and Agricultural & Priority Pollutants Laboratory Inc. in Fresno, Denele Labs in Turlock and Fruit Grower Labs in Stockton.