Minnesota Becomes First State To Require GHG Assessments
Minnesota has become the first state in the nation to require greenhouse gas (GH) emission assessments on Environmental Assessment Worksheets (EAWs) required for new or expanding livestock operations of 500 animal units or more.
The requirement was ordered by the Minnesota Court of Appeals on a dairy expansion project that would take cow numbers from about 1,600 to more than 4,600. Two environmental groups had sued the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) a year ago when the agency did not require the GHG assessment.
Adding 3,000 cows to Daley Farms, Lewiston, Minn., will add about 32,500 tons of carbon dioxide equivalent to the atmosphere per year. By some estimates, that’s the equivalent of adding more than 6,000 automobiles per year.
“Our biggest worry is that these numbers will be used against us,” says Lucas Sjostrom, executive director of the Minnesota Milk Producers Association (MMPA).
But state environmental officials have told MMPA that the agency was simply responding to the court order, and that it had no intention of using the GHG numbers in assessing or approving permits.
There are a number of problems with using GHG estimations based solely on animal units. For starters, such assessments don’t take into account the productivity of the cows themselves. Higher producing cows will have higher emissions per animal because they consume more feed. But because they also produce more milk, GHG emissions per gallon of milk is less than average producing cows. The assessments also don’t take into account the amount of carbon sequestered by alfalfa and cover crops.
Minnesota is also losing cows. USDA estimates show that Minnesota has 5,000 cows fewer than it did a year ago, and is down 11,000 head since December 2017. The Daley expansion would simply be replacing cows the state has already lost.
The Daley EAW is currently under a public comment period. A public hearing will be held Feb. 4, and MPCA will issue a decision on its permit within 30 business days. The farm also faces some county permitting hurdles as well.
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