Emergency order in effect for Fresno County, but now some farmers face new issue

FRESNO, Calif. (KFSN) -- Accumulating livestock carcasses that caused a crippling disaster in Fresno County was unanimously ratified Tuesday by the Board of Supervisors.

It means farmers and ranchers now have the ability to discard their dead animals.

"When we don't have a legal way to dispose of the carcass, it really puts a lot of strain on the individual farms," says Brian Pacheco with the Fresno County Board of Supervisors.

"What they needed to do is compost a lot of that livestock and farmers are very creative and of course, after the composting, farmers are able to be very creative in what they do with manure and compost out in their fields," says Nathan Magsig with the Fresno County Board of Supervisors.

Pacheco knows the problem all too well. He's a Kerman dairyman who felt the pain of the rendering plant backup firsthand.

"Baker Commodities was actually operating at full capacity," he said. "However, the volume simply overtook what their capacity was and when that happened, the animals start to decompose rapidly and then they can't process the material."

Fortunately, the backup was short-lived. But now there's another issue facing dairymen and cattle ranchers. Some beef processing plants aren't accepting any more live cattle.

According to the Board of Supervisors, this problem is a result of the pandemic and a workforce that's been greatly reduced as a result.

"We have not been, since Wednesday of last week, been able to market our animals through a normal channel because the local slaughterhouse here in town is not operating at full capacity as well, so we're getting hit on both sides of the equation," Pacheco said.

Other neighboring counties face the same dilemma. Tulare County issued a similar emergency declaration when the heat caused mass livestock casualties.

Dairy and beef cattle ranchers hope the crisis is over. But it could all change if there's a breakdown at the rendering plant or another extended heatwave.
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