In a post-Copenhagen move; the US Dairy industry announced today that it is partnering with the US Department of Agriculture to reduce greenhouse gas emissions 25% by 2020 by greatly ramping-up the use of anaerobic digesters.
While cows have been with us since at least 2020 BC, now that we are growing towards 9 billion on our one and only planet, obviously dairy farming has far more impact now than it did in our earliest farming days. So the news comes as a very welcome announcement.
Climate change will devastate US farming if our greenhouse gas production is not turned around by 2020.
Cow patties deposited on open fields and pastures are still a relatively insignificant source, according to a U.S. inventory report. But methane produced during the anaerobic (i.e., without oxygen) decomposition of organic material in livestock manure management systems create about 7% of US methane emissions.
Factory farming; large scale swine and dairy operations that use liquid manure management systems, such as lagoons and holding tanks are a significant source.
But currently only 2% of US dairy industry use digesters, which leaves plenty of scope for expansion. And while digesters are an initially expensive outlay: as high as $600 per cow, the potential is great for generating an an additional ongoing source of additional income for farmers. Farms already using the technology are able to generate more than enough electricity to power their operations, or the equivalent of the power need for 200 homes. But saving money (and the future of farming) is only part of it.
There are at least two ways that a farmer can earn money by burning biogas that contains methane.