The message of your story "Manure Maneuver" (July 19) seemed to be that the government was imposing paperwork on dairy owners who are already doing all they can to keep cow manure out of our streams. That may or may not be true of the two dairy owners you interviewed but it is not true generally. According to the EPA, agriculture and urban run-off are the two top factors delivering pollution to America's rivers and estuaries. The North Coast Water Quality Control Board tells us that agricultural pollution is among the top factors impairing water bodies on the North Coast and within the Klamath River Basin.
It has been over 30 years since the Clean Water Act became law. It is high time that agricultural operations begin to comply with a law that other businesses have had to deal with for over 30 years. When a dairy or anyone else pollutes our public waters they are imposing a cost on those who rely on clean water ... in other words, they are imposing a cost on all of us. That is simply not right.
Agricultural operations get all kinds of help complying with the law; ag operators should stop complaining and start complying with the Clean Water Act just like every other business in the USA.
Felice Pace, Klamath
Zach St. George's article "Manure Maneuver" provided a good glimpse into the life of local dairy families and some of the challenges they face trying to make a living off the land in a sustainable, responsible way. As St. George mentioned, over the past 11 years almost half the family-owned dairies in the county have called it quits because of increasing costs and regulations.
As executive director of the Humboldt County Resource Conservation District, I want to get the word out that there are local efforts to help dairy producers meet the new regulations from the North Coast Regional Water Quality Control Board. Back in March of this year the board and staff of the Headwaters Fund heard the dairy community's concerns about the new regulations. To support Humboldt's dairy industry, the Headwaters Fund partnered with our local Resource Conservation District (RCD) to help folks with the new permit process.
Since then, with Headwaters support, the Humboldt County RCD has been collaborating with dairy producers, other RCDs up and down the north coast, the Regional Water Board, Western United Dairymen, the Farm Bureau, UC Cooperative Extension, California Dairy Quality Assurance Program, and California Department of Food and Agriculture to host workshops and provide one-on-one assistance with completing paperwork and navigating the new regulations.
The new dairy regulations can be confusing. For example, to clarify one point in St. George's article -- dairies with more than 700 cows are eligible for coverage under the waiver, provided they pose a low risk to water quality and have a nutrient management plan. If you are a dairy producer looking for help with the process, please contact your local Resource Conservation District.
Donna Chambers, Hydesville