The USDA Wednesday renewed an agreement to help dairy farmers implement and explore options for waste-to-energy projects, energy conservation and efficiency improvements on their farms.
Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack joined Tom Gallagher, Innovation Center for U.S. Dairy CEO and Doug Young, a New York dairy farmer, to announce the renewal of the agreement, which was first introduced in 2009.
The renewal focuses on agricultural energy efficiency programs and tools, such as anaerobic digesters – systems that capture methane and produce energy for use on the farm and sale onto the electric grid.
"In this particular area, I think there is an enormous opportunity for American agriculture, not just to lead itself through this process but I think it also is sending a message to the rest of the country. That is, we what to be in greater control of our energy future," Vilsack said during a press call. "We've obviously reduced our reliance on foreign oil significantly in the last four years and we want to continue that trend."
Since first signing the agreement, USDA said it has made nearly 180 awards that helped finance the development, construction, and biogas production of anaerobic digester systems with USDA Rural Development programs. Those programs include the Rural Energy for America Program, Bioenergy Program for Advanced Biofuels, Business and Industry Guaranteed Loan Program, Value Added Producer Grants, amongst others.
Additionally, during this period, USDA awarded approximately 140 REAP loans and grants to help dairy farmers develop other types of renewable energy and energy efficiency systems at their operations.