Column: Onerous era of ag air pollution control begins

It is located on the edge of the campus, bounded by some of Fresno’s busiest streets. There are well-established neighborhoods within two miles of it. I have driven pass the dairy a thousand times and to be honest each time I drive by I expect to smell it. I have been disappointed more times than not. It is one of the cleanest, odorless dairies in the valley, a tribute to the university and students who operate it.

The dairy is small by valley standards, but it is no lab dairy. It is a commercial operation, complete with a sizeable disposal system, including a large manure holding pond.

Parked next to that pond recently was one of those small, white 50-mile per gallon (hybrid?) cars you put on rather than get into. On the door was "San Joaquin Valley Air Pollution Control District."

It signaled the beginning of one of the most onerous, costly and some say needless chapters in the continuing saga of over-regulating California agriculture. It’s all thanks to a Shafter, Calif., Democratic state senator named Dean Florez.

Florez’ legislation last year during the Gray Davis reign ended agriculture’s exemption for federal air operating permits. The price tag will be staggering. It started recently when the district budgeted $1.6 million to hire 18 air pollution cops who will roam the countryside looking for dastardly air polluting farmers amongst the 28,000 farms and 5,500 livestock operations in the valley polluting the air. Farmers get to pay for the privilege of being policed with fees they will be charged for getting air permits.

Seeing that little car and its occupant/air cop parked next to what must be one of the cleanest dairies in California was disturbing. Seems to me the money would be better spent by that air cop chasing the big non-compliant polluting diesel rigs and old cars zooming down Highway 99 and Interstate 5 that dissect the San Joaquin Valley. Then again, that little white car probably would have a hard time keeping up with traffic. Its occupant is probably safer sitting next to a dairy that doesn’t need regulating.

There is no question the air is bad in the San Joaquin Valley. There are more cars, trucks and people than ever living in the valley and they are the biggest reasons why. Yet it is the farmers and dairies which are being regulated to death.

I had to chuckle the other day while listening to a clueless government regulator try to explain how the laws she did not fully understand will be enforced. She jokingly said that she hoped the new California ag air quality laws would not elevate to the level of an air pollution regulatory proposal made in Australia.

Seems as though a fervent environmentalist suggested that the cost of a dairy’s air permits be determined by the number of gas expulsions per cow per day. No joke.

This a family-read publication so we will not make any comments beyond that. However, when a regulator starts reading what other regulators are doing, it does cause one to shutter.

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