Ag Department, Dairy Groups Agree to Cut GHG Emissions 25%

December 15, 2009 06:00 PM

By Jim Dickrell, editor, Dairy Today

USDA and the Innovation Center for U.S. Dairy announced the signing of a memorandum of understanding (MOU) to jointly work to reduce the dairy industry greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by 25% by 2020.

The agreement, announced in a press conference from Copenhagen, Denmark, this morning, does not create additional funding but allows USDA to target and expedite existing programs such as EQIP and REAP toward greater energy efficiency and GHG reductions. The hope is that more dairy producers will install anaerobic methane digesters on their farms to produce methane gas which in turn can be used to produce clean electricity.

"This historic agreement, the first of its kind, will help us achieve the ambitious goal of drastically reducing GHG emissions while benefitting dairy farmers,” says Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack. He notes that U.S. agriculture produces 7% of U.S. GHG emissions. "But it can be 25% of the solution,” he says.

Currently, fewer than 150 digesters operate on U.S. dairy farms. The hope is that more than 1,000 digesters will be built. One 700-cow dairy, for example, can generate enough electricity to power 200 homes. The initial target is to have digesters installed on larger operations, but the hope is that additional research will make the digesters viable on smaller dairies as well.

Dairy industry officials note that improved milk production efficiency over the past 60 years has already reduced GHG emissions at the farm level by 60%.The MOU goes beyond the farm as well, targeting milk transport, processing and manufacturing and retail dairy outlets. Dairy Management, Inc., the National Milk Producers Federation and the International Dairy Foods Association are all committed to reducing GHG emissions through this effort, says Erin Fitzgerald, DMI's director of social and environmental innovation.

For more information on the Innovation Center for U.S. Dairy, click here


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