FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Laura Zaks, National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition • (347) 563-6408
Lynne McBride, California Farmers Union and California Dairy Campaign • (925) 639-3603
Adam Warthesen, Organic Valley • (608) 632-6754
COWS Act Aims to Boost Dairy Profitability and Sustainability
Washington, DC, July 25, 2023 – Senators Alex Padilla (D-CA) and Sherrod Brown (D-OH) today introduced the Converting Our Waste Sustainably (COWS) Act. Representatives Jim Costa (D-CA), David Valadao (R-CA) and Chellie Pingree (D-ME) introduced a companion bill in the House (H.R. 4327).
The COWS Act would establish a new federal program aiming to improve economic viability and sustainability for the dairy and livestock industry. The voluntary program will provide resources to help the dairy and other livestock operations can move to alternative manure handling systems that achieve three goals: (1) improve water quality (2) boost profitability by modernizing technologies for manure management; (3) improve air quality and foster climate-smart farming by reducing methane emissions.
Over the last few years, the dairy industry has faced many challenges including drought, increasing feed costs, labor shortages, a fluctuating milk market, Covid-19 and most recently flooding. Milk prices are below production, leaving dairy farmers with few resources to invest in new infrastructure.
“Dairy farmers are working to implement climate-smart manure management practices, and the COWS Act will offer the needed resources to enhance both air and water quality,” said Rob Larew, National Farmers Union President. “The COWS Act manure management practices will lower methane emissions, providing practical solutions that dairy farmers are eager to adopt in their efforts towards becoming more sustainable.”
The program proposed in the COWS Act is modeled on a successful and very popular incentive program that started in California in 2017, the Alternative Manure Management Program (AMMP). Since then, the California Department of Food and Agriculture has awarded 147 dairies a total of $88 million for equipment that reduces methane emissions. Two to three times more farmers have applied than there has been funding available. Grants have covered the costs of various types of equipment to scrape manure from barns and into compost piles instead of flushing it into lagoons, separate and dry out or compost manure solids, build compost pack barns or other infrastructure to aerate manure, and increase the amount of time cows spend on pasture — all of which reduce methane emissions.
“Getting the AMMP award sped up our plans to modernize our manure management system by about 10 years. Dairy farmers in the San Joaquin Valley are chomping at the bit to get more tools that improve their environmental sustainability,” said Paul Danbom of Brindeiro & Danbom Dairy Farm in Turlock, CA.
“As a business looking to bring climate smart products to consumers, we see the value in supporting farmers with modernizing their operations,” said Travis Forgues, Executive Vice President of Membership of Organic Valley. “We are excited to support the COWS Act.”
Inclusion of the COWS Act in the next farm bill’s conservation title will fill an important gap in the farm conservation toolbox by implementing manure management practices that will work on farms of all sizes, reduce methane and nitrous oxide emissions, and help boost the profitability of the dairy and livestock sector.
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About the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition (NSAC)
The National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition is a grassroots alliance that advocates for federal policy reform supporting the long-term social, economic, and environmental sustainability of agriculture, natural resources, and rural communities. Learn more and get involved at: https://sustainableagriculture.net