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Dairy farmers tell state its rules on cow manure are too costly

Rigoberto Herrera of Lynden works in the milk barn at Twin Brook Creamery on Assink Road near Lynden, Wash., early Thursday morning July 23, 2015.
Rigoberto Herrera of Lynden works in the milk barn at Twin Brook Creamery on Assink Road near Lynden, Wash., early Thursday morning July 23, 2015. For The Bellingham Herald

Dairy farmers and environmentalists are criticizing new manure-control rules the state Department of Ecology plans to finalize early next year.

The Capital Press reported that at a public hearing on Tuesday, July 26, farmers said dairies already are heavily regulated and that Ecology’s new layer of mandates would be unnecessary and expensive.

More than 100 people attended the hearing at Whatcom Community College on Ecology’s proposal to require up to 300 midsized and large dairies to obtain a permit to operate a concentrated animal feeding operation.

The Ecology Department estimates that complying with the permit will cost a dairy between $11,000 and $25,000 over five years.

To ease the financial hardship on the industry, the agency plans to exempt from the rules about 100 dairies that have fewer than 200 mature cows.

After Tuesday’s hearing, Ecology’s special assistant on water policy, Kelly Susewind, said the department may consider redrawing the line and exempting more dairies.

He said dairy farmers have raised valid concerns that Ecology’s analysis didn’t account for all costs.

Environmentalists testified that the department should require dairies to line lagoons with synthetic fabric to prevent leaks and to install wells to monitor groundwater.

Puget Soundkeeper Executive Director Chris Wilke said Ecology has yielded too much to farm interests, calling the agency’s proposal a “travesty.”

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