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County tables action on dairy air program

YAKIMA - The Yakima Clean Air Authority remains in a holding pattern on what to this point has been a voluntary air quality program for dairies.

For the second consecutive year, the authority is mulling the idea of making the program mandatory for all dairies in this county.

This month, the authority's board was to decide whether or not to maintain the status quo or make the program a requirement.

Dave Caprile is the authority's spokesman, and he says the board opted to table action until its meeting on Thursday, May 9, from 2 to 3 p.m. in the Yakima City Council chambers. The chambers are located at Yakima City Hall, 129 N. Second St.

Currently, about two-thirds of the dairies in this county participate in the program, which includes best management practices such as treating recycled lagoon water, removing and spreading manure more frequently and feeding cows in phases.

If mandatory, these and other practices would be required of all dairies, plus each would pay an annual fee of more than $400 to cover the expenses of monitoring air quality at the dairies.

"We'd like to see it stay voluntary," says Steve George of the Washington State Dairy Federation. "We have a pretty significant amount of participation. Not all, but a good enough amount for the agency to get a pretty good feel of what's going on now in terms of compliance or best uses."

Even so, Caprile notes there are some in the dairy industry who would like to see the county consider a mandatory clean air program for dairies.

"Some of the points by dairy people is that if everyone doesn't become involved (in the clean air program) then it loses some value," Caprile says. "Virtually all the people involved with the voluntary program have good things to say about it."

That includes George. "By and large, we have appreciated their (the Clean Air Authority's) approach," he said. "They have been very good to work with and very open with the industry. Kudos to Clean Air, they've done it right and brought us along."

George adds the best management practices in the county's clean air plan for dairies benefits producers, too.

"Dairies aren't necessarily implementing these practices just for the benefit of air quality," he says, noting the steps result in cows that are more comfortable. That in turn, George adds, helps dairies increase their milk production.

The Clean Air Authority recently added a second meeting each month to focus on citizen input related to issues involving clean air, whether it's the dairy program or other measures.

Called a Community Air Quality Forum, the next open forum will be held Monday, April 15, from 1 to 3 p.m. in the second floor conference room of Yakima City Hall.

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