“USDA has resources that can help the dairy industry be successful but in many cases they are difficult to find because they are spread out through various agencies,” US Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue said.
“This MOU hopefully will be a potential navigator to the Innovation Center and give a ‘green light’ to interact with our agencies and centralize our various research and voluntary conservation efforts to reach their goals.”
Perdue added that the USDA will continue to support waste-to-energy research within the industry and work on enhancing the application and approval process for Natural Resource Conservation Service (NRCS) programs in order to make the process more efficient and tailored for producer convenience.
“USDA and the Innovation Center will continue to work together to accelerate the adoption of innovative technologies and increase energy efficiency improvements on US dairy farms,” Perdue said.
“These improvements will help producers diversify revenues and reduce utility expenses, while they strive to support their families and local communities by operating economically, environmentally sustainable dairy farms.”
The USDA said it will also continue to examine ways to expand conservation grants for sustainability initiatives by producers, cooperatives, non-governmental organizations, and state and local governments.
In return, the Innovation Center has agreed to work with its member companies to collaborate with the USDA in communicating and educating producers on the value of sustainable practices while encouraging them to take advantage of conservation program opportunities.
Past and current collaborations include the installation of anaerobic digesters on dairy farms and developing nutrient recovery technologies in animal feed.
The Farmers Assuring Responsible Management (FARM) Environmental Stewardship module, another joint initiative between the USDA and Innovation Center partnership, is a voluntary tool that helps dairy farmers identify opportunities for sustainable improvements in their operations and is now used by 98% of the US milk supply.
“This MOU allows the dairy industry to continue to build on all of the good work we have done for years with USDA,” chairman of Dairy Management Inc. and an Innovation Center board member, Paul Rovey, said.
“It allows our industry to have a voice and work within a structure where we can continue making progress toward our shared goals and priorities."