Old Silvana Creamery to Close their Small Farm Operations in Snohomish County

This email notificatioin came to my atention today and we wanted to share it with everyone.  It goes along with the mantra everyone at Saturday Morning Live and SAVEWhatcom have been trying to communicate with our Whatcom County friends:

  • Whatcom County is a great place to live if you have a job
  • Whatcom County is a great place to farm if you can farm the land
  • Whatcom County is a great place to do business if you can pay the taxes
  • Whatcom County is a great place to do just about anything if it’s permitted

~ Kris Halterman

Notice to our Customers:

2013-11-24_1309_opt WSDA (Washington state department of agriculture) and the Snohomish County Conservation District will be forcing

Old Silvana Creamery, LLC to close.

I want to be clear that what the WSDA and the Snohomish County Conservation District is doing to us has nothing to do with the fact that we are a licensed raw milk dairy. These are regulations that are imposed on all dairy farmers in Washington state, no matter how small or large.
I had a scheduled meeting yesterday with the WSDA and the Snohomish County Conservation district. I knew they were going to give me grief about not implementing their costly rainwater retention ideas. They also want me to keep records of when and how much manure I spread on my field, take soil samples, etc.. So I had my son take pictures of the meeting (which they didn’t like). I had no idea they were going to deem my manure lagoon as unusable.

Back in 1984, my dad had a manure lagoon dug on our farm which was “certified” by the Conservation district, he had another but much smaller lagoon dug about 150 yards from the “certified” lagoon. The smaller lagoon was identically dug/built just like the larger lagoon but a smaller size. Because this smaller lagoon possibly never received certification from the “powers that be”, I am now told I cannot use it to store the manure from my cows. Also, it cannot be certified now because the rules for building lagoons have been changed (older certified lagoons are grandfathered) and without a place to store the cow manure I will not be issued the required “Farm Plan”. The larger lagoon that was “certified”, still exists but sits on property that we sold when we went bankrupt dairy farming back in 1998.

Also according to their “calculations”, I have too many cows on our land and need to obtain at least 8 more acres for manure distribution to be in compliance. How do they come up with this garbage? Are they sure I need 8 acres, maybe 7.5 or 8.3 is more accurate? This is in addition to all the thousands of dollars they want me to spend on their water retention ideas. I told them I want and need the water from my roofs to make the cow manure wet enough to pump on the fields. That’s when he told me I might have to buy a solids separator (thousands of dollars)! They have complicated formulas they’ve come up with to determine how many animals you can have on your land as well as how much manure you can spread on your fields and when you can spread. Never mind that we started dairy farming here back in 1977 and have never had problems with our cow manure running into our neighbors fields, well water or ditches (we had over 300 cows then).

They claim we MIGHT contaminate ground water. Aren’t we supposed to be “innocent until proven guilty”? I haven’t heard of any complaints from my neighbors that their water tastes like manure. These people seem to think cow manure is worse than all the pesticide and herbicide chemical crap crop farmers are putting into their soil. Cow manure builds the soil, it doesn’t take away from it. This is why crop farmers will trade with dairy farmers their nutrient depleted fields for half of the amount in dairy fields plus do the tractor work to reseed the fields once the land swap is done. Cow manure helps build humus. There is nothing better than dairy ground for growing almost everything! On a side note, what about all the Bison that covered the plains 150 years ago? Somebody should have told them they were contaminating the ground water, to many Bison per acre! No fences to keep them from pooping in the rivers?

My Dad, my brother and myself all had to file bankruptcy back in 1998 because we tried everything we could to save our farm. In the end we sold all our cows, most of our farming equipment and were forced to sell 100 acres just so we could save the 20 acres of land that surrounds the barns and houses plus we still have a mortgage on the 20 acres. Do they care more about our farm and land than we do? These “Farm Plan” recommendations/regulations were voluntary up until later in 1998 when the state legislature made them mandatory. These requirements now give the Conservation districts the role of the “good cop” that’s just trying to mediate and help you (sarcasm) with dealing with the “bad cop” aka Washington State Department of Agriculture (excellent job justification for Conservation districts employees). When they are pressed about what they are doing to dairy farmers they pass the blame onto the Department of Ecology or the Federal government (USDA, FEMA, EPA, etc.).The people that administer and enforce these regulations use the excuse that they are “just following orders” (how many times has that one been used in history?) or they say “It’s the law”. Is a law that basically says your guilty of damage before any damage is even done, a just law?

Because I am required to get a license to produce and sell milk, they have power over me to force costly changes to my dairy farm. If I don’t implement the changes, they take my license and I believe that is what they will do to us. If you have beef cattle, there are no regulations/requirements on where to direct the rain from your barn roof, store the animals manure or the application of manure on fields/pastures but I have been told by the Conservation District, those rules will be coming for beef farmers as well.

They tell me that if I can’t afford these costly changes to our dairy that I can apply for grants and get you, the taxpayer to pay for them. I told them that why should the people of Washington/US pay for my dairy farm?? Especially for changes that I believe are totally unnecessary. This whole thing makes me sick. Where is my right to farm and make a living for my family?? We farmed here since 1977, went broke in 1998, my wife, our four children and I started up dairy farming again almost two years ago (next Friday is our 2 year anniversary). Here’s a link to an article written about us back in February We are supplying people with a very wholesome, nutritious, desirable product and now they throw this at us. Isn’t this kind of dairy farming the perfect example of what a lot of us want to see return? Instead they treat us as if we are children or just ignorant country folk out to destroy the land we are trying to make our living from. I have heard that Snohomish County wants to keep farmers and farm land here in the county. Save the Farmland! is the cry, well what do you call the land if there is nobody to farm on it?

The only way I can see Old Silvana Creamery continuing is for a change in the RCW (revised code of Washington) via our state legislature. At the least, small dairies like ours should not be forced into costly changes to our farms. No dairy, big or small should be fined/penalized for simply farming our land when there is no proof or history of damage to our neighbors.

Thanks for taking the time to read about our problems with these farm destroying government agencies.

Jim Sinnema
Old Silvana Creamery, LLC

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