TULARE COUNTY, Calif. (KSEE/KGPE) – A billboard on Highway 99 asking drivers to “Ditch Dairy to Fight Climate Crisis” is not being welcomed by the Central Valley’s dairy farmers.

Case Anker, one of the owners of Poplar Lane Dairy in Hanford, says it’s sad anytime you see something like that – especially in a community where your backbone is agriculture.

“It feels like a slap in the face, not only to business owners, landowners, it’s everybody involved. It’s the tractor dealership, it’s the parts store, it’s all the farmer laborers, we so desperately depend on, so yeah, I think it seems a little out of taste,” said Case Anker.

“It’s a huge topic in our community and business,” said Brooke Anker, the other owner of Poplar Lane Dairy in Hanford.

The billboard is on Highway 99, south of the Tagus, in Tulare County. The billboard urges drivers to ditch dairy from their diet to help fight climate change. The Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine, which is sponsoring the billboard, also wrote a letter to the California Environmental Protection Agency Climate Action Team to ask that it to encourage citizens to avoid animal products and adopt a plant-based diet.

According to the California Milk Advisory Board, Tulare County is the largest dairy-producing county in the nation – and California holds the title of the number one milk producer in the United States, with more than 1,100 dairy farms, housing 1.72 million milk cows.

However, that production comes with some side-effects. Cattle produce methane as part of their normal digestive process, called enteric fermentation. When cows burp the methane is released into the atmosphere. Methane is also produced when animal manure is stored or managed in lagoons or holding tanks, according to the Environmental Protection Agency.

Officials with the World Health Organization claim that reducing livestock herds and cutting emissions from methane, which is relatively short-lived, is critical in preventing catastrophic climate change. While the sign is something local farmers feel is insensitive, Anker says it’s nothing new for them.

“Unfortunately, I don’t think it’s the first time and I don’t think it will be the last time that we see something like that. Not everybody loves us and that’s okay, I think that’s common in any industry but it’s a good reminder we always need to be on our best behavior, do the best we can, and maybe further educate those about the benefits of dairy,” said Case Anker.

Anker says, despite the billboard and letter, dairy has owned their contribution and he’s hoping that people will educate themselves further too.

“I hope this encourages people to ask questions because then they know the truth. I mean, come check out a dairy and farming and get the facts,” said Anker.