Summer certainly wasn’t slow for Texas dairy issues
By Darren Turley, TAD executive director
With the start of school across Texas – either in person or virtually – summer fun and relaxation has drawn to a close. But be assured that even in the summer months, the Texas Association of Dairymen (TAD) has been hard at work on several issues of interest to the state’s dairy industry, including the Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL) for the Bosque Watershed, a state agency rule change for unpasteurized (raw) milk, and a proposed federal system of paying farmers for the milk they are producing.
In early September, the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) held a virtual meeting to discuss the TMDL for the Bosque Watershed.
This area has been of interest to TAD and Central Texas dairy farmers since the TMDL process was started in the early 2000s. As a result of that program, new strict rules applicable only to dairies in the watershed were put in place. Dairies also were required to obtain individual permits rather than general permits. All of these obligations imposed significant expense and burden on the dairies.
The City of Waco in 2004 sued several dairies upstream from the city, citing the impact of discharge on Lake Waco water quality. Those lawsuits were finally settled in January 2006, but not before dairies in the watershed were required to comply with more stringent operating rules adopted by the TCEQ.
At the September TCEQ meeting, it was reported that the watershed has shown drastic improvements in water sampled in all locations on the river, except for a dry creek bed site north of Stephenville that has shown high phosphorus samples for years. The TMDL process has various sampling sites that have been measured for years, and all but one location demonstrate that the TMDL standards have been met. TAD believes it is time to see the TMDL process concluded by TCEQ.
These positive sample results have been consistent for some time.
TAD and other groups believe this TMDL agreement has been successful in lowering the phosphorus levels in the Bosque River leading into Lake Waco.
TCEQ has agreed to engage with a small group of stakeholders about next steps. Some groups want to continue the process of the TMDL governing local dairies and the watershed; other groups, including TAD believe it’s time to complete the TMDL agreement.
The Texas Department of State Health Services (DSHS) has proposed an initial draft rule to Title 25, Part 1 Chapter 217 Milk and Dairy Subchapter A & B that would expand the sale of unpasteurized (raw) milk.
Currently, state law allows the sale of unpasteurized milk only to an individual who visits and buys it directly from the farm where it is produced. Legislation to expand the sale of unpasteurized milk off-farm has been unsuccessfully introduced for multiple legislative sessions.
TAD has long opposed broadening the sale of unpasteurized milk, agreeing with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that consuming raw milk is a serious health risk. Learn more about our position.
TAD, along with other opponents to the expansion of raw milk sales, provided comments regarding the proposed draft rule that is expected to go through various modifications over the next few months. TAD will continue to discuss our position and monitor the rule as it progresses through the administrative process at DSHS.
Two-tier milk pricing
Recently I have been regularly asked about a proposed federal two-tier milk pricing system. This system would pay a dairy farmer full price for the first 90% of milk produced; additional milk will be priced below the cost of production. This discourages the overproduction of milk that would lead to a financial loss.
This would have a definite impact in Texas, where dairy farmers are expected to produce more milk in the spring (and possibly for years to come) than there is processing capacity at existing plants in our state.
These are the issues for this month – I can’t wait to see what the next month holds. The Texas dairy industry never sits still, so TAD doesn’t either.