CA: Tulare County Planning Commission Adopts Revised General Plan, EIR for Dairies

Kevin Abernathy

Kevin Abernathy General Manager Milk Producers Council

On October 25, the Tulare County Planning Commission unanimously adopted proposed changes to the county’s General Plan for dairies (Animal Confinement Facilities Plan) along with a Final Environmental Impact Report (EIR). The county’s Board of Supervisors will consider the proposed changes likely before the end of the year, with a recommendation from the Planning Commission to adopt the revised General Plan and EIR.

For nearly 8 years, the Tulare County Producers Group (TCPG), in coordination with the Dairy Environmental Justice Fund and Dairy Cares, has led the producer-funded effort to update the county’s General Plan. In 2010, TCPG signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the county, allowing it to hire appropriate consultants to revise the General Plan Dairy Element and prepare an EIR, with the county’s producers investing in, and cosponsoring, its development.

The updated county plan allows for more streamlined permitting of new or modified dairies by recognizing the regulatory programs of other agencies, such as the Central Valley Regional Water Quality Control Board, the San Joaquin Valley Air Pollution Control District, and the California Air Resources Board. By aligning county permit requirements with existing regional environmental regulations, unnecessary duplication is avoided, and time and money is saved.

Updates to the county’s dairy plan also reflect major changes in the dairy industry and California’s environmental laws and policies over the last few years, mostly related to climate change and water quality. It is important to recognize that the above agencies have significantly strengthened their regulations, policies and statutory authority over the past decade, and dairies are doing more than ever before to cooperate with them. State and regionwide policies also allow for fair and consistent rules from county to county and ensure that everyone is operating on a level playing field. The adoption of the revised General Plan is an important step for ensuring the health of the dairy community and the county’s economy.

MPC will continue to track this process and work with Tulare County producers on dairy permitting matters. Please contact me at [email protected] with any questions.

This report appears in the MPC newsletter dated Oct. 27 and is reproduced with permission