Yakima Valley and Mid-Columbia dairy farmers have been busy this year. They are investing to improve farm operations with research, sophisticated farm technology and equipment, and outreach with government agencies and policy makers to ensure that decisions are made with current science-based information, about how modern farm practices are improving production, water and air quality.
Local dairy farmers are making multimillion-dollar investments to improve production efficiency and to meet or often exceed environmental benchmarks for water and air quality. We want do the best job possible in balancing good stewardship with sound business practices.
More farms are expected to utilize GPS on their equipment to inject manure nutrients directly into the ground using computerized flow-metering systems that eliminate odor. Centrifuge and manure separation technology allow us to obtain more solids for composting. About 75 percent of the area’s dairy operations export compost out of the Yakima Valley.
Approximately 75 percent of the area’s dairy operations export compost out of the Yakima Valley.
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We expect on-farm innovations to continue in the coming years. Promising testing is being done locally for bio-filtration using worm beds to clean water, and evolving anaerobic digestion technology for production of electricity, biogas, natural gas and even ethanol are on the horizon.
Area dairy farmers serve on the Lower Yakima Valley Groundwater Management Advisory Committee (GWMAC), and work with officials at the Yakima Regional Clean Air Agency to show how modern farm practices are improving operations, and to develop a framework for implementation of reasonable guidelines for local groundwater and air quality improvements.
Representatives from the Environmental Protection Agency have said Yakima dairies have stepped up to reduce sources of nitrate from farm operations. Washington Department of Agriculture inspectors who visit dairy farms on a frequent basis say the progress dairy farmers are making to upgrade facilities, improve waste storage ponds and upgrade record keeping has been “phenomenal.”
Washington State University Master Gardeners and volunteers confirm how nutrient-rich all-organic manure-based fertilizer delivers the best results for food and general gardening applications. WSU gardeners say manure nutrients mixed with garden soils provide superior moisture retention and essential nutrients for vegetables, berries and flowering plants.
WSU gardeners say manure nutrients mixed with garden soils provide superior moisture retention and essential nutrients for vegetables, berries and flowering plants.
Research projects funded for the coming year by the Washington Dairy Products Commission address several different topics: environment, animal health and economic opportunities. Specific projects will explore the impact of different drainage systems on water quality; study vaccine protocols for livestock disease prevention; develop alternative uses for whey as a by-product of cheese and cottage cheese production; and promote the extraction of phosphorus from manure nutrients.
The farmer-owned Darigold cooperative is investing $90 million in their Sunnyside plant by adding 30,000 square feet and 30 local full-time, year-round jobs. The expanded plant will increase milk processing capability from local dairies to 8.7 million pounds per day, but that doesn’t necessarily mean local dairies will increase their herd size. A large portion of the local milk that has been transported to other processing locations will now be processed in Sunnyside.
$90 million Amount Dairgold cooperative is investing into Sunnyside plant
Darigold has also launched a new retail cheddar cheese that is available in grocery store dairy cases throughout the Northwest. The new medium and sharp “all white, natural cheddar” is produced locally at the Sunnyside plant, and makes for fantastic pairing with great tasting Yakima Valley and Mid-Columbia wines.
Yakima Valley dairies support thoughtful science-based approaches to improve water and air quality, while at the same time preserving a robust area dairy industry that contributes $940 million and 4,800 jobs to the Valley’s $5.5 billion agriculture economy.