Model of a Successful Regulatory-Industry Partnership to Address Air Emissions from Dairy Operations in Yakima, WA

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Why Is It Important for Industry and Regulators to Work Together?

The community in the Yakima Region of Washington State has raised concerns over the potential adverse effects of air emissions from dairy operations. To address these concerns, the Yakima Regional Clean Air Agency (YRCAA) proposed a policy process in October 2010 to control and mitigate emissions through implementation of site-specific best management practices (BMPs) on dairy operations. Absent a lack of reliable methodologies for estimating emissions from dairies, the YRCAA enrolled experts and scientists to help create tools that could be used for estimation of emissions from dairy operations. The assessment of BMPs aimed at mitigating air emissions from dairies was also included to determine their effect on the character, amount, and dispersion of specific air pollutants. This project assessed the effect of voluntary verses policy driven action on the dairy industry, community, and environmental impacts of air emissions from dairy operations.

What Did We Do?

The Yakima Regional Clean Air Agency (YRCAA) proposed a draft policy in October 2010 to control and mitigate emissions through implementation of site-specific best management practices (BMPs) on dairy operations. To validate the policy, a “Pilot Research Project” was launched in February 2011 to gather information for one year to test the feasibility of implementing and determining policy effectiveness. Twelve operations, representing ~40% of the estimated regional cow numbers, volunteered to participate.

A description of proven BMPs and a BMP selection-guide were created to help producers develop site-specific Air Quality Management Plans (AQMP). Each AQMP identified, systematically, specific BMPs to mitigate emissions from each area of the dairy system (nutrition, feed management, milk parlor, housing-drylot, housing-freestall, grazing, manure management, land application, other) based on effectiveness, practicality and economics. The pollutants addressed in each AQMP included ammonia, nitrous oxide, hydrogen sulfide, volatile organic compounds, odor, particulate matter, oxides of nitrogen, and methane. A universal score-sheet was created to assess implementation of BMPs at each dairy. The YRCAA inspectors were trained to evaluate, score, and record BMP implementation. A whole-farm score was generated during each visit, which identified areas of improvement to be addressed.

The process was very unique in that the dairy industry took a proactive role and actively participated. Using science and air quality experts to create and validate the evaluation tools and process also brought authority to the process. The policy was revised based on information collected from the pilot project and was adopted in February 2012. To date, 22 operations, representing 57% of total cow numbers in the Yakima Region, are enrolled.

What Have We Learned?

The voluntary approach used during the pilot project phase of the policy was very effective in enrolling the dairy community. Producers stepped up to volunteer and cooperatively participate in an unknown process. Even though they were very robust and integrated a large amount of scientific information, the emission assessment tools created as an outcome of the pilot project were very user friendly and easy to interpret by planners and producers. The air quality BMP assessment tool is currently being evaluated for use by other agencies and institutions.

Future Plans

The YRCAA has entered into phase two of the policy process and are now mandating that dairies participate in the air quality assessment. Starting in March 2013, all dairy operations in the Yakima basin will be either voluntarily or mandatorily inspected and assessed for air quality improvements. This provides an opportunity to compare voluntary and mandatory policy processes. The long-term impact of the process is yet unknown.


Nichole M. Embertson, Ph.D., Nutrient Management Specialist, Whatcom Conservation District, Lynden, WA,

Gary Pruitt, Executive Director, Yakima Regional Clean Air Agency Air, Yakima, WA

Hasan Tahat, Engineering and Planning Supervisor, Yakima Regional Clean Air Agency Air, Yakima, WA

Pius Ndegwa, Biological and Systems Engineering, Washington State University, Pullman, WA

Additional Information


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