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Pacific Southwest, Region 9

Serving: Arizona, California, Hawaii, Nevada, Pacific Islands, Tribal Nations

Dairy Biologically Integrated Farming Systems (BIFS) Program in the San Joaquin Valley

Many dairy producers in California's San Joaquin Valley are letting tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of plant fertilizers flow unaccounted for into the ground. Compounding the situation, these potentially valuable nutrients are also contributing to ground water contamination and raising concerns among local, state, and federal environmental regulators. Hundreds of California's dairy producers face this conundrum, which is being addressed by the Dairy BIFS program with financial assistance from EPA's Pacific Southwest Regional Office.

The plant nutrients of concern are nitrogen and others in dairy manure and waste water. The BIFS project is an on-farm, educational effort run by the University of California Cooperative Extension which has helped 11 San Joaquin Valley dairies recover the value of their dairy waste product by carefully substituting it for commercial fertilizer applications. In fact, ten out of the 11 participating dairy producers have successfully eliminated all applications of commercial nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium fertilizers, replacing them with monitored applications of manure water.

The project is getting a lot of attention from dairymen because it saves money. For state and federal regulators the project is important because will help dairy producers meet tough new federal regulations for dairy waste management, protect ground water resources and remain profitable at the same time!

While the project has been extremely successful, today's challenge is to extend the benefits of these waste management techniques throughout the dairy industry. Some of the remaining hurdles include costs associated with needed changes to the dairies' design and irrigation equipment. Another challenge is to change attitudes within the dairy community to view manure not as a waste but as a valuable fertilizer resource. By facilitating direct farmer-to-farmer education, projects like the Dairy BIFS program go a long way toward demonstrating how profit and environmental protection can go hand in hand.

For more information, go to the Dairy BIFS project Website. For more information about the BIFS Program for other crops in California, go to the UC Davis Web page on BIFS. Exiting EPA (disclaimer)

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