A New Mexico dairy farm family’s long struggle with milk and cattle contamination connected to chemicals commonly referred to as PFAS is moving forward. New Mexico’s Environmental Department (NMED) announced a plan necessary to make Highland Dairy eligible for state and USDA assistance to cover financial damages as well as costs for the euthanasia and disposal of the farm’s entire dairy herd.
NMED is the state agency overseeing Highland Dairy’s plan for disposal of PFAS-contaminated cattle, which is required for the dairy to qualify for cow indemnity payments under the USDA’s recently revised Dairy Indemnity Payment Program (DIPP). The program, which the USDA expanded to go beyond lost milk sales, now provides payments to dairy producers for the lost value of their herd due to contamination from livestock exposure to chemicals, like PFAS.
In a press release, James Kenney, secretary of the NMED, said the agency was assisting Highland Dairy in managing dairy cow carcasses as hazardous substances and seeking input from experts on treatment and disposal options. In the first phase of the plan, the dairy will compost all PFAS-contaminated carcasses on the farm property. In Phase 2, PFAS testing of the composted material and soil at the compost site will be conducted to determine final removal and disposal options.
The Highland Dairy removal plan is believed to be the first of its kind nationally for addressing PFAS-contaminated cows as a hazardous waste and was developed in consultation with the USDA’s Farm Service Agency (FSA) and Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), the state veterinarian of New Mexico, the New Mexico Department of Agriculture and NMED.
Per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) are a group of man-made chemicals that includes perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) and perfluorooctanesulfonic acid (PFOS).
The plight of Art and Renee Schaap, fourth-generation New Mexico dairy farmers, was originally highlighted in a Progressive Dairy article in April 2019 (“Poisoned wells: New Mexico dairy dumps milk while dealing with toxins in drinking water”).
Highland Dairy, near Clovis, in New Mexico’s Curry County, is located near Cannon Air Force Base. The PFAS contamination of the Schaaps’ farm and dairy herd was linked to firefighting foam used at the base. Testing conducted in 2018 showed Highland Dairy’s cows and their milk contained PFAS at levels the FDA deemed unsafe for human consumption. As a result, the Schaaps were unable to sell milk or cows. Since October 2018, more than 3,000 dairy cows have died on the dairy, with another 617 adult cows to be euthanized.
The current estimated cost of this loss of revenue and increased expenses is more than $5.9 million, which does not account for upcoming costs associated with the on-farm composting of animal mortalities and final disposal.
In addition to the payment sought by Highland Dairy from the USDA, NMED has allocated up to $850,000 of its hazardous waste emergency fund for expenses associated with the proper disposal of PFAS-contaminated hazardous carcasses and associated wastes.
Both Kenney and the Schaaps remain critical of the U.S. Department of Defense handling of the PFAS contamination at the site. They contend the DOD is forcing the state to pay for clean-up and legal costs.
In late 2021, the EPA established the PFAS Strategic Roadmap. Writing for Progressive Dairy in February 2022, Alan Hahn, business development manager with Dragun Corporation, said the only mention of agriculture in the “Roadmap” was a plan to finalize a risk assessment for two PFAS compounds for biosolids applied to farm fields. That assessment isn’t expected until winter 2024.
Search Progressive Dairy’s website for other PFAS-related articles.
PFAS: Emerging contaminant, evolving concerns for dairy (September 2019)
Should farmers be concerned about PFAS? (May 2022)
U.S.-CANADIAN DAIRY TRADE
The U.S. Dairy Export Council (USDEC), National Milk Producers Federation (NMPF) have called on the U.S. government to levy retaliatory tariffs on Canada for failing to meet dairy market access obligations under the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA).
In late May, United States Trade Representative Katherine Tai said the U.S. will seek a second consultation over Canada’s dairy tariff rate quotas (TRQs). In response, Canadian Trade Minister Mary Ng said Canada will participate in the discussion but will stand by its current position. No timeline has been set.
In January, a USMCA dispute resolution panel found that Canada’s dairy tariff-rate quotas (TRQs) system violated the terms of USMCA. A revised Canada TRQ proposal, issued in March, was rejected by the U.S. organizations. In May, Canada announced policies affecting dairy TRQs for 2022-23.
In statements released by USDEC and NMPF, the U.S. organizations said the latest announcement gave no indication that Canada intends to comply with its USMCA commitments on dairy TRQs. Subsequently, USDA Foreign Agricultural Service Administrator Daniel Whitley agreed.
In May, New Zealand filed similar complaints against Canada, saying the TRQs violated provisions of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP).
SEC CLIMATE DISCLOSURE RULE
The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) has extended the comment period on a proposed rule some fear will subject farmers to additional environmental and sustainability regulations.
The comment period, which was scheduled to close on May 20, has been extended until June 17.
As proposed in March, “The Enhancement and Standardization of Climate-Related Disclosures for Investors” rule mandates extensive climate disclosures by public companies, including disclosure of direct and indirect greenhouse gas emissions for their entire supply chain.
While farmers and ranchers would not be required to report directly to the SEC, they provide almost every raw product that goes into the food supply chain. The American Farm Bureau Federation (AFBF) has expressed concern that the 510-page rule could lead to increased costs, legal liabilities and privacy concerns for farmers. For farmers to stay compliant with the companies that purchase their products downstream, this could mean producers will need to track and disclose on-farm data regarding individual operations and day-to-day activities.
- Progressive Dairy
- Email Dave Natzke