Secretary Vilsack Tours Dairy Farm Methane Digester

US - Earlier this week, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack visited a Pennsylvania dairy farm that is using an anaerobic digester to convert manure into electricity and high quality bedding, cutting energy costs and providing a resting area for more contented cows. The digester, which went on-line a year ago, was funded in part with the support of USDA Rural Development.
calendar icon 20 July 2012
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"Using enhanced manure management techniques not only provides a new source of income for farmers, it also improves air and water quality while providing renewable electricity for hundreds of homes in the community," said Secretary Vilsack. "It's a win-win-win."

Pennwood Farms, which is family-owned, uses an anaerobic digester to produce all of its electricity and sells enough power back to the local grid to meet the needs of an estimated 600 people. The digester also produces clean bedding as a byproduct, which saves the owners from having to buy bedding for the dairy herd. In all, manure from the 570 cow dairy farm creates about 920,000 kWh of electricity a year.

USDA supported deployment of the biodigester by providing grants and loans in 2010 totaling over $528,000 through the Rural Energy for America Program (REAP). Last month, Secretary Vilsack announced funding under REAP for an additional 450 projects nationwide. REAP, authorised by the 2008 Farm Bill, offers funds for farmers, ranchers and rural small businesses to purchase and install renewable energy systems and make energy-efficiency improvements. These federal funds leverage other funding sources for businesses.

Anaerobic digesters like the one the Secretary toured today at Pennwood Farms, are in concert with an agreement with US dairy producers signed by the Secretary in Copenhagen, Denmark in 2009 to accelerate adoption of innovative manure to energy projects on American dairy farms. The agreement represents a dynamic public/private partnership and is another demonstration of the Obama Administration's commitment to curb the emissions of greenhouse gases. Since the MOU was signed, the Obama Administration has provided 149 digester awards to eligible applicants.

With the Memorandum of Understanding, the Innovation Center for US Dairy - part of the Dairy Management Inc. - the USDA and US dairy producers are working together to reach a 25 per cent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by the year 2020. USDA will do so by undertaking research initiatives, allowing implementation flexibility, and enhancing marketing efforts of anaerobic digesters and energy efficiency improvements to dairy producers.

Anaerobic digester technology is a proven method of converting waste products, such as manure, into electricity. The technology utilizes generators that are fueled by methane captured from the animal manure. Solid byproducts of the system are dried and used on the farm as livestock bedding material, and liquid byproducts are used as high-quality organic fertiliser in place of chemical fertilisers.

In addition to REAP, USDA also offers additional funding to help farmers install an anaerobic digester as part of their manure management system. Funding is provided by the Natural Resources Conservation Service's Environmental Quality Incentive Program (EQIP).

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