Farm Beat: Good works put Central Valley dairy farmers in spotlight

01/03/2014 12:08 PM

05/02/2014 3:52 PM

Our dairy farmers and processors continue to deliver the goods – milk, cheese, butter, ice cream and other products – in great abundance.

A new report and video show what they have done on behalf of the environment and people in need. They were produced by Dairy Cares, an industry coalition based in Sacramento, and can be viewed at

The report tells how Ray Gene Veldhuis, a dairy farmer near Winton, has worked to improve manure and water management. It describes how Hilmar Cheese Co. treats the water left over from its processing for reuse in the plant and on nearby farms.

The chairman of Dairy Cares is Charles Ahlem, a co-founder of Hilmar Cheese.

“Today’s consumer, increasingly removed from the daily rigors of farm and dairy life, might be surprised by farming’s evolution and progress,” he wrote in the report. “But while the look of family farms has changed over the last century, the principles and values of our families on the farm have not.”

The report recounts how Denair-area farmers Cal and Lori Mast helped found Turlock Gospel Mission, which provides food, counseling and other services to homeless people.

It notes how California Dairies Inc. helped pay for a digital mammography machine at Community Regional Medical Center in Fresno. The farmer-owned cooperative has processing plants in Turlock, Los Banos and a few other locations.

To the south in Tulare, Ruan Transportation has switched to low-emission milk trucks and is looking at fueling them with methane extracted from manure. The same gas goes into an electricity generator at a dairy farm near Lodi.

The report also cites a Dairy Cares effort to assure that cattle are treated properly.

Dairy has long been the top-grossing farm product in the San Joaquin Valley and statewide, although farmers in recent years have seen milk prices often fall short of feed and other production costs.

Ahlem noted that the state’s dairy industry generates an estimated 443,000 jobs and $63 billion in annual economic activity – if the ripple effect for suppliers, retailers and other sectors is included.

“Our state’s dairy families and the broader dairy community – from the farm to the processing plant – remain committed to investing in our planet, people and animals,” he wrote.

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