(NAFB)--USDA has renewed a historic agreement with U.S. dairy producers to accelerate the adoption of innovative waste-to-energy projects and energy efficiency improvements on U.S. dairy farms. With an extension of the Memorandum of Understanding signed in 2009 - U.S. Ag Secretary Tom Vilsack says USDA and the Innovation Center for U.S. Dairy will continue research that helps dairy farmers improve the sustainability of their operations. He says the research will also support the industry as it strives for the long-term goal of reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 25-percent by the year 2020. Innovation Center for U.S. Dairy and Dairy Management CEO Thomas Gallagher says dairy farmers and the dairy industry are very happy USDA is entering into the next MOU with the Innovation Center. He says they are all interested in sustainable agriculture and producing good food responsibly - while bolstering an important rural economy. He says the new MOU lays out the roadmap for more improvements - which is good for dairy, good for the economy and good for consumers.
One objective of the MOU is to increase the construction of anaerobic digesters and explore innovative ways to use products previously considered waste streams from dairy production, processing and handling. Since the MOU was signed - USDA has made nearly 180 awards that helped finance the development, construction and biogas production of anaerobic digester systems with Rural Development programs like the Rural Energy for America Program, Bioenergy Program for Advanced Biofuels, Value Added Producer Grants and others. USDA has also awarded approximately 140 Rural Energy for America Program loans and grants to help dairy farmers develop other types of renewable energy and energy efficiency systems at their operations.
USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service has provided 257-million dollars in funding since 2009 - helping more than six-thousand dairy farmers plan and implement conservation practices to improve sustainability. This support has resulted in 354 on-farm and in-plant energy audits - as well as 19 conservation innovation grants for dairy-related projects during the past three years.