J.D. Morris, THE PRESS DEMOCRAT
Nestled among wide rolling hills on the edge of the Two Rock Valley northwest of Petaluma, where generations of farmers have found fertile ground to support their livestock, the McClelland family’s vast open pasture provides ample room for cows to graze and scenic vistas that epitomize Sonoma County’s bucolic beauty.
Family members want their 330-acre property to stay that way forever, so the McClellands secured a deal with county officials this week to make it happen. Sonoma County supervisors on Tuesday approved spending $1.88 million in taxpayer funds to conserve the property, ensuring it won’t be developed for housing and will remain as farmland.
The deal, about three years in the making, signals a landmark moment for the county’s Agricultural Preservation and Open Space District, because the McClellands’ pasture connects seven other properties the county conserved over the past two decades.Including the latest pasture — known as Hansen Ranch after the family who owned it before the McClellands — the county has now formed a 2,900-acre contiguous stretch of protected farmland in the area, an effort meant to keep dairy farms and other agricultural uses thriving in the southwestern corner of the county.
Read more at: Sonoma County spends $1.88 million to protect McClelland family’s Two Rock pasture | The Press Democrat –
Guy Kovner, THE PRESS DEMOCRAT
Granting long-term leases to the two dozen ranching families that have raised cattle for generations at Point Reyes National Seashore would be halted under a proposed court settlement announced Wednesday to resolve a lawsuit brought last year by three environmental groups.
The tentative deal, which involves the groups and the National Park Service, manager of the 71,000-acre seashore on the Marin County coast, requires park managers to study impacts on the environment from decades of ranching and opens up the possibility that grazing dairy and beef cattle could be curtailed or ended.
Both the ranchers and environmental groups claimed victory in the settlement of a closely watched case, seen as having wider implications for management of federal land.
“This is what we asked for in the lawsuit,” said Deborah Moskowitz, president of the Resource Renewal Institute, one of the environmental groups. “It’s good news.”
Dairy rancher Jarrod Mendoza said the settlement was “a temporary win” for ranchers, who would get five-year leases.
Ranchers have been operating on one-year leases and Mendoza, a fourth-generation rancher, said he was “hopeful” that 20-year terms would ultimately be allowed. Mendoza, who milks about 200 cows a day at his ranch, said he hopes to continue in agriculture for the rest of his life.
Moskowitz and Mendoza acknowledged the settlement does not address the question of whether cattle can coexist with wilderness on a scenic peninsula inhabited by tule elk, eagles, black-tailed deer and bobcats.“I think those questions will be answered in the general management plan,” Mendoza said, referring to a park planning update required by the settlement,
Read more at: Granting of Point Reyes ranch long-term leases halted in lawsuit settlement | The Press Democrat
Robert Digitale, THE PRESS DEMOCRAT
Petaluma meat processor Marin Sun Farms is merging with Mindful Meats, a Point Reyes Station business that sells organic meats processed from the region’s dairy herds.
As part of the merger, Mindful Meats will become an organic beef product line of Marin Sun Farms. Marin Sun’s founder David Evans will remain CEO, and Mindful Meats CEO Claire Herminjard will become co-executive of Marin Sun.
Financial details of the merger weren’t disclosed.
Marin Sun operates the North Bay’s last slaughterhouse for beef and other animals. The company employs 55 workers at its Petaluma plant, plus a butcher shop staff of 10 at its Oakland store and four employees at its Point Reyes Station butcher shop and restaurant.
Mindful Meats touts its “dual purpose” use of organic dairy cows that for years provide milk and then are used for meat.
Source: Petaluma’s Marin Sun Farms merges with Marin meat business | The Press Democrat
CBS SAN FRANCISCO (KPIX 5)
Got milk? Chances are it’s from California. There are more dairy cows in the Golden State than anywhere else in the country. But all that milk and cheese comes at a cost to the planet.
Tom Frantz keeps a running count. He says dairy farms have taken over his farming community in the San Joaquin Valley. “There are ten of them within what I call smelling distance of my home,” he said, noting they’ve moved in in just the last 10 years.
We’re not talking about mom-and-pop operations.
“These are milk factories,” said Frantz. “We went from zero cows to about 60,000 cows, within about five miles of where I live.”
“6,000 animals in one dairy has the waste stream of a city of half a million people,” said Frantz.
But unlike a city, most dairies don’t treat their waste. After separating out the solids to use as manure, they dump the rest of the waste into open lagoons and let it evaporate.
“This waste stream is just rotting in these giant lagoons,” said Frantz.
It’s not just the smell. The lagoons of manure also emit methane, and lots of it. If you account for climate impacts over 100 years, which is the basis of AB 32, dairy and livestock operations are directly responsible for 5.4 percent of the state’s greenhouse gas emissions. But in the state’s short-lived climate pollution plan, that uses a 20-year global warming accounting. The impact triples to 15 percent.
“They are incredibly potent climate pollutants,” said Ryan McCarthy, Science & Technology Policy Advisor with the California Air Resources Board. “Really tackling and addressing the way that dairies manage their manure would represent one of the most significant climate programs we have in the state,” said McCarthy.
Read more at: Waste From California Dairy Farms Present Climate Change Challenge « CBS San Francisco
Robert Digitale, THE PRESS DEMOCRAT
Eighty percent of the dairies in Marin and Sonoma counties now produce certified organic milk, a change that allows them to command a premium milk price and also has sheltered them from a severe downturn that has buffeted the conventional dairy market for more than a year.
The North Bay’s shift away from the conventional dairy business, which has taken place over more than two decades, represents a striking contrast with the rest of California, where organic milk comprises less than 2 percent of total dairy production.
So many local farmers have switched to organic production that Petaluma-based Clover Stornetta Farms, the Bay Area’s largest independent dairy processor, has reached out beyond the North Bay’s coastal grasslands to the Central Valley to satisfy its need for conventional milk.
“We have had to move east where the milkshed is,” said Marcus Benedetti, president and CEO of the company with the iconic mascot, Clo the Cow. “And that will be a trend that continues.”
But even moving to organic won’t entirely protect the local dairy industry from volatile ups and downs, as the nation’s organic sector faces a milk surplus. Already two large local buyers of organic milk have announced what they characterized as small price cuts, and some dairies could have difficulty finding processors for their milk.
Some are predicting upheaval in the larger organic market, though not as severe as what the state’s conventional dairies have been suffering.
Read more at: North Bay dairies shift to organic milk production, seeking higher income and stability | The Press Democrat
Guy Kovner, THE PRESS DEMOCRAT
Storm clouds shadowed Ted McIsaac as he shifted his battered 1994 Chevy pickup into four-wheel drive and bounced along a muddy track over hills cloaked in brilliant green grass.
His border collie Rollin trotted alongside while McIsaac made a morning recon of his 2,500-acre Point Reyes ranch to scan the slopes near and far for his 160 head of pure black cattle. To the west, the dark spine of Inverness Ridge framed the horizon, and 2 miles beyond winter surf pounded a wild coastline.
“You rely on Mother Nature. She rules your day,” said McIsaac, 65, a lean, sturdy man with a creased face and square jaw. A fourth-generation rancher, he’s accustomed to the vagaries of weather, especially spring rains that can make or break a cattleman.
But a much larger storm now hangs over the remote Point Reyes peninsula, where a legal fight triggered by three environmental groups has profoundly unsettled life for McIsaac and 23 other families who operate ranches on the federally protected landscape.
Theirs is a way of life often as rough as the relentless waves crashing at the edges of this timeless headland. And they believe the future of ranching is at stake in the 71,000-acre Point Reyes National Seashore, where pasture for beef and dairy cattle exists side by side with wilderness, both shielded from development in a unique preserve established by the federal government at the ranchers’ behest more than 50 years ago.
President John F. Kennedy, convinced it was some sort of charmed West Coast Cape Cod, created the national park after ranchers and environmentalists fearful of intense development pressures banded together to stop the encroachment of subdivisions on Point Reyes.
As part of the deal, the ranchers insist they were made a promise specifically designed to endure: They could remain as long their families were willing to work in the wet, cold and wind of an unforgiving landscape.
Point Reyes National Seashore is now at the center of an unfolding dispute that ultimately seeks to define the nature of America’s national parks: Can the treasured public scenery accommodate the country’s ranching tradition?
Read more at: Point Reyes ranchers at center of debate over | Petaluma Argus Courier | Petaluma360.com
Rebecca Fitzgerald & Charles Reed, SONOMA COUNTY GAZETTE
Each year, the Russian River plays host to tens of thousands of residents and visitors who swim and recreate along its length, which extends from Redwood Valley, North of Ukiah to Jenner, where the river empties into the Pacific Ocean.
At the same time, the Russian River area is home to hundreds of thousands of human inhabitants and domesticated animals, who produce waste. Most of this domestic waste is collected, treated, beneficially reused, or discharged at a time and in a manner that is protective of public health and water quality. Much of this domestic waste is also controlled at its source by individuals through responsible personal behavior and good sanitary practices.
Unfortunately, that’s not always the case. Water monitoring samples from the river show widespread contamination with bacteria and indicators of human waste, which pose a threat to the health of the river ecosystem and the people who visit it.
Reliance on existing regulatory actions and individual behavior is sometimes not sufficient to prevent domestic waste from being released in an uncontrolled manner into the environment. Once released, this material, which may include disease-causing microorganisms, inevitably makes its way to creeks and finally to the Russian River where it adversely impacts water quality, impairs the beneficial uses of creeks and the River, and presents a public health risk to individuals who come in contact with contaminated waters.
Often, the uncontrolled sources of waste are the result of the systemic failure to address human societal challenges like homelessness. Other times, contamination is the result of legacy practices, such as obsolete, substandard wastewater treatment systems. The simple lack of public awareness about the impacts of individual actions can also affect water quality.
Regardless of the root cause of contamination, it is the obligation of public agencies responsible for the protection of water quality and public health, to take actions to correct the condition. For these actions to be truly successfully and long-lasting, there must be participation, cooperation, and commitment from supporting state and local agencies, parties to whom corrective actions are assigned, and the general public.
Read much more via Troubled Waters: Water Board Developing a Plan to Cleanup Disease-causing Bacteria in the Russian River.
Martin Espinoza, THE PRESS DEMOCRAT
In the past 10 years, Tracy Underwood has seen the price of hay more than double, from about $9 a bale to upwards of $20.
While some of that increase was a result of the recession, California’s withering drought has driven hay prices to historic highs.
Underwood, who used to spend about $400 a day on hay to feed about 100 horses at the Santa Rosa Equestrian Center, has started growing her own fodder to cut costs. The switch to hydroponic-grown fodder has helped slice her hay bill in half.
“I’m saving $200 a day on hay costs,” Underwood said.
She still feeds hay to her horses for dinner, especially her thoroughbreds, which tend to eat a lot. But the majority of her horses now get other fodder for breakfast and lunch.
Underwood’s solution is one way North Coast residents are dealing with skyrocketing hay prices. With the California drought now in its third year, less rain has meant fewer acres of oat, barley and wheat pastures, which has fueled a sharp jump in hay prices.
Continue reading via California drought sends hay prices soaring | The Press Democrat.