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US dairy industry commits to emissions targets

By Guy Montague-Jones , 16-Dec-2009

The US dairy industry has agreed to work with the USDA to cut greenhouse gas emissions 25 per cent by 2020.

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack and Dairy Management announced the dairy target yesterday at the climate change talks in Copenhagen, Denmark.

Anaerobic digester technology, which converts animal manure into electricity using generators, is expected to be at the heart of efforts to achieve the promised reduction in emissions.

Spreading manure technology

The USDA estimates that only 2 per cent of US dairies that could use digestible technology profitably actually do so. This leaves plenty of scope for expansion.

Crucially, turning manure into energy is expected to be good for farmers, as well as the environment.

Vilsack said: “Use of manure to electricity technology is a win for everyone because it provides an untapped source of income for famers, provides a source of renewable electricity, reduces our dependence on foreign fossil fuels, and provides a wealth of additional environmental benefits.”

To give an idea of the potential of digester technology, the USDA said dairy operations with anaerobic digesters routinely generate enough electricity to power 200 homes.

Actions to reduce emissions

The USDA will encourage take-up of the technology by enhancing marketing efforts of anaerobic digesters to dairy producers.

Beyond promoting the digesters, the agreement signed yesterday in Copenhagen, will see Dairy Management and the USDA working together to encourage research and development of new technologies to help dairies reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

Thomas Galleagher, CEO of the Innovation Center for U.S. Dairy and Dairy Management Inc, underlined the importance of ensuring both economic and environmental sustainability.

He said: “This memorandum came about because of the commitment of U.S. dairy farmers and the dairy industry to a sustainable future that includes both environmental and economic viability.”

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