Landowners using dairy permits to boost values

The pursuit of more bucks produced a lot of bull.

Texas regulators have issued permits in the Panhandle for enough dairy cattle to house more than a tenth of the entire U.S. dairy population, according to Texas Commission on Environmental Quality records and U.S. agricultural statistics.

Melanie Barnes, a Texas Tech geologist who will chair a committee of the regional water planning group tackling accurate dairy numbers, found the new estimates far more realistic.

The permits would probably need to be referenced, but she said the committee needed the water plan to reflect the economic realities of the region. Water estimates would probably continue to change in future planning processes as the dairy numbers settled, she said.

"Personally, it sounds much more reasonable than what was originally discussed," Barnes said. "That's the beauty of this legislation, is we can keep reviewing this as much as we want. And I think we should."

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