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Moooo-ving on to another vote on air quality rep
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Manteca’s elected leaders Tuesday are expected to cast a collective vote for a Stockton City Council member they feel will best serve the interests of dairy farmers on the San Joaquin Valley Air Pollution Control District board.

Manteca – along with other San Joaquin-Stanislaus city councils and county supervisors – last month refused to support Stockton Councilmember Susan Talamantes Eggman from assuming the position on the belief that she is unsympathetic to the plight of the dairy industry.

The representative this year must come from the Stockton City Council. Two other Stockton leaders have stepped up for consideration. They are Stockton Mayor Ann Johnston who has been a retail business owner for the past 28 years as well as growing up on a farm and having family vested in agriculture for 65 years plus Elbert Holman Sr. He has 34 years of experience in law enforcement. Holman has indicated he doesn’t favor any strategies that will disrupt the prosperity generated by agriculture.

The Manteca council’s concern centers around a movement within the air pollution control district to force dairy farmers to reduce methane gas which is essentially cow flatulence. Manteca’s leaders noted that dairies top the San Joaquin County’s annual farm production of $2 billion at $446 million.

Dairy farms are being plummeted by the global recession that has triggered a massive drop in demand for milk and other dairy products. As a result, it now costs California dairy farmers $1.50 a gallon to produce milk while they are receiving right around $1 a gallon.

Dairies have been the leader in ag production in San Joaquin County since 2001. Farm-related jobs including processing and trucking are by far the largest segment of employment in San Joaquin County.

The district has focused on methane releases from the San Joaquin Valley’s two million dairy cows as being a major factor in poor air quality.
Studies have shown that an average dairy cow produces 12.8 pounds of volatile organic compounds (VOC) a year. That would mean 700 cows produce as much VOCs as 60,000 cars.

One solution would involve a million dollar investment per dairy for methane digesters that cover a dairy’s lagoon. Such a digester would trap pollutants and create electricity. There is a major debate whether they would be cost effective for the typical dairy.

The San Joaquin Valley Air Quality Control District - the people who made dairy cattle public enemy No. 1 for cutting a bit too much cheese and creating methane gas - are also going after steakhouses and fast food joints that charbroil meat. That dripping grease ends up sizzling and sparking a flame that spews smoke containing dangerous pollutants that escape into the atmosphere.

Throughout the San Joaquin Valley, the air quality folks estimate 2.6 tons of particles are released into the air each day from charbroiling. Altogether, 527 tons of pollutants that are considered lethal are released daily into the skies of the San Joaquin Valley.

The air quality people have a simple solution – technology. Of course, that means money. The proposed new rule – which could cost between $2,000 and $100,000 a year per restaurant.