Assembly Bill 2959 (AB 2959), initially introduced back in February, would allow limitations to be put on the types of facilities that can supply farmers and ranchers with food byproducts. Several industry groups have indicated they would be working to oppose the bill, including the California Farm Bureau Federation (CFBF), Western United Dairies, and the California Cattlemen’s Association. While industry members have concerns about the increased cost it would create for producers, there is also concern that adding even more food waste to landfills will further increase emission levels.
“I’m quite concerned about that because what our ruminant livestock is able to do is recycle and even upcycle the nutrients that are generally wasted – that are generally going to landfills – and converting those into highly nutritious animal-sourced foods such as meat or dairy,” said Dr. Frank Mitloehner, professor and air quality specialist in the Department of Animal Science at UC Davis. “The system is not broken, why fix it?”
Producers have relied heavily on food waste from various sources as a nutritious feed for livestock and the system has worked well for keeping food byproducts from ending up in landfills. Dr. Mitloehner explained that 18 percent of the material that makes it to landfills is already wasted food. That number would undoubtedly increase under AB 2959 as food waste would be limited as a source of animal feed, resulting in more food byproducts in landfills instead of being converted into other food products.
“Globally, livestock is celebrated for that reason; that it can take nutrient streams and make those into animal-sourced foods,” Dr. Mitloehner noted. “It’s really important for the sector to hold on to that and it is one of the most important environmental benefits of the livestock and poultry industries that they can make use of those.”
CFBF has pointed out that AB 2959 would require producers to import more virgin feed or end up growing more feed here in California. Either of those two results would create both financial and environmental costs. “Our herds will not shrink but we will have to replace what currently is a waste product with something else. So, we would drastically increase the carbon footprint of our state in my opinion,” said Dr. Mitloehner.