Animal Agriculture, Air Quality, and Climate Change

Frank Mitloehner at the UC Davis cattle barn

Dr. Frank Mitloehner is a Professor and Air Quality Specialist in Cooperative Extension in the Department of Animal Science at the University of California, Davis. He is an expert on agricultural air quality, livestock housing, and husbandry.

What is the focus of your research?

My main area of research is on the impact of animal agriculture on air quality and climate. What does it mean to eat a sustainable diet? This is in the context of the global need to be able to feed nine million people by 2050 without depleting the world’s natural resources. Additionally, in the past my research examined worker exposure to air pollutants on dairies.

How is the landscape changing in the United States related to dairies?

Many smaller dairies are going out of business. When I came to California in 2001, there were 2,000 dairies and since then, we have lost 700 dairies but hardly any cows. There is a lot of consolidation. It is often increasing regulatory pressure that leads small farms to give up and larger farms to take over animals. Despite size, most dairies in the United States are family owned farms.

What challenges are dairies facing?

The dairy industry in general is going through tough times. California dairies are required to reduce their emissions (particularly methane) by up to 40% by 2030; however, most farmers don’t know what their current emissions are and which technologies might effectively reduce methane emissions. Strained economic conditions coupled with stringent regulatory pressures place significant stress on dairymen.

Fortunately, the state is increasingly partnering with the farmers to overcome these challenges. The California Air Resources Board (CARB) and the California Department of Food and Agriculture (CDFA) are funding research to quantify emissions and mitigation technologies to reduce emissions.


Be sure to catch Dr. Mitloehner’s lecture, “Air Quality on California Dairies: Implications for the Health and Safety of Farmworkers,” at our Seminar Series event on May 6, 2019. If you are not in Davis, you can watch live here on Facebook.

 

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