The diary industry is known for producing good tasting, healthy dairy products; but they are also becoming known for producing renewable energy. Four years ago, the USDA and the dairy industry signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) that would provide government funds to help dairy operations reduce greenhouse gas emissions and invest in anaerobic digesters to produce renewable energy from manure. Since that time, the USDA provided 58 million dollars to help finance 178 digesters, used equip funds to help over 6000 dairy operations improve conservation practices, and provided funds for 354 farm energy audits that help farmers reduce their energy consumption. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack announced on Wednesday that another MOU has been signed with the dairy industry to continue to help dairy farmers invest in new technology to produce renewable energy, “This pact extends the agreement I signed during climate talks in Copenhagen, Denmark, in 2009. Since then, millions of dollars have been awarded to the dairy industry for conservation improvements, grants, research, renewable energy and efficiency.” These systems capture methane and produce renewable energy for on-farm use and for sale onto the electric grid. Additionally, during this period, USDA awarded approximately 140 REAP loans and grants to help dairy farmers develop other types of renewable energy and energy efficiency systems at their operations.
Vilsack said US dependency on imported oil continue to decline, in part because of the commitment of the diary industry to embrace this new technology, “One of the reasons we have been able to reduce our dependence on imported oil is because of the dairy industries aggressive efforts of dairy producers to embrace anaerobic digesters.” Several of those digesters have been installed in Indiana.
Tom Gallagher, with the innovation center for US Dairy, said dairy producers, large and small, are committed to reducing their environmental footprint while making a contribution to renewable energy, “Today’s extension of the Memorandum of Understanding is an acknowledgement of the dairy industry’s legacy of stewardship and its ongoing commitment to improve our farms.” He added that this agreement is a prime example of how the public and private sector are working with America’s farmers and ranchers to take care of our planet. US dairy producers are making great strides in sustainable practices and it is our job to continue to support them as excellent stewards of the land. Gallagher said they have a goal of reducing dairy sector greenhouse emissions by 25% by the year 2020.