Valley dairy farmers depend on relationships with valued partners such as Orange Dairy Service, Washington Tractor , Daritech, and the South Yakima Conservation District among many others. Sales can run into the millions, and many say dairy farmers are only about five years away from fully sustainable operations as equipment innovations increase production, reduce labor and meet or exceed environmental benchmarks for water and air quality.
Farmer-owned Darigold’s $90 million, 30,000-square-foot Sunnyside plant expansion is scheduled for completion in spring 2016. Currently, the Sunnyside plant processes approximately 5 million pounds of milk every day from area farms that is turned into in a variety of cheese and whey protein products sold in markets across the U.S. and internationally.
With new milk drying capabilities to come, Darigold will be able to take in an additional 3.5 million pounds of milk each day and turn that milk into high-value protein powder for use in infant formula and other nutritional applications, providing nourishment to people around the world.
“Taking trucks off the road is a win for everyone,” said Senior Vice President Steve Matzen, with the Northwest Dairy Association. Darigold’s farmer owners produce approximately 11 to 12 million pounds of milk a day throughout the Eastern Washington region. “We’ll still have to ship some milk to our other facilities simply to meet demand, but an additional 3.5 million pounds of milk every day will stay in the region and be processed in Sunnyside. That’s good for everyone and good for the environment,” stated Matzen. This will be the fourth expansion since the plant opened in 1991.
The Yakima Regional Clean Air Agency has made good progress in dealing with the Valley’s air quality challenges related to wood smoke as pellet stoves and other forms of heating are taking the bite out of our air. Valley agriculture is often accused as another culprit for poor air quality in the Valley, but that really isn’t the case.
My own experience as a Valley physician for more than 30 years has been reinforced by recent articles, including one in the Washington Post, concerning studies that say people who live on or near farms – especially dairy farms — experience less immune related disease such as allergies, asthma, and even inflammatory bowel disease.
The research published in Science Magazine shows how exposure to livestock and farm antigen exposure (natural substances from the farm environment, such as dust and hay), reduces the future risk of allergies and asthma. The medical, genetic, and immunology research is solid, convincing, and significant. For example, nearly half (50%) of city-dwellers may experience adverse reaction to hay or mold antigens, while as few as 8% of those growing up on livestock farms experience adverse reactions. Even growing up close to farms confers future protection from these immune-related diseases.
These studies from the U.S. and Europe are eye-openers and clearly point to the significant benefits to human health by living on or near farms. When you can reduce or alter the incidents of respiratory conditions from 50% to 8% the merit of these studies as ‘myth-busters’ about the adverse impacts of agriculture on air quality is significant.
Dairyland News is distributed to dairy farm families, business leaders/dairy farm suppliers, government staff, elected officials, and news media to show how dairy farmers contribute to the community, with safe operations, best farm management practices and effective stewardship of land and animals. Dairyland News is produced by the Washington Dairy Products Commission in cooperation with the Washington State Dairy Federation.