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Vilsack, dairy producers sign agreement to lower emissions

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack signed an agreement today with U.S. dairy producers to cut greenhouse gas emissions by 25 percent by 2020. The agreement came as a part of the UN’s “Campaign on Climate Change” in Copenhagen, Denmark.

To accomplish this reduction, U.S. dairy farms, the Innovation Center for U.S. Dairy and the U.S. Department of Agriculture will work together to implement new technologies to turn manure into energy for farms, along with investing in other research initiatives. The technology that is currently available (and only 2 percent of U.S. dairies are utilizing) is called “anaerobic digesting,” which takes methane gases from cow manure to run generators. Dairy operations that do use this technology produce enough energy to power up to 200 homes (per 700 head dairy herd), according to the USDA.

"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,” Vilsack said in a USDA press release.

Along with improved marketing efforts on the technology, the USDA plans to help fund the production of more anaerobic digesters with conservation funds and renewable energy dollars.

"Today we'll have the opportunity to see how efforts to address climate change are already creating wealth in rural communities across America; demonstrate the commitment of America's farmers and ranchers to address the issue of climate change; and have a discussion about the path forward so that agriculture is part of the climate change solution,” Vilsack says.

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