REAP Deadline Extends, Creates More Biogas Opps

usda-logoThe U.S. Department of Agriculture extends the deadline on a program that could see more farmers, especially those in the dairy industry, turning livestock waste into energy. The deadline to submit for funds under the Rural Energy for America Program (REAP) and Dairy Industry Memorandum of Understanding has been extended to to May 31, 2013. During a teleconference moderated by Jerry Bingold from the Innovation Center for U.S. Dairy, the USDA’s Energy Policy Advisor for Rural Development Todd Campbell said this is a top priority of his agency.

“Taking biomass feedtsock and creating renewable energy, helping to implement enhanced manure management techniques, it not only helps our dairy farmers across the country to continue to be the great stewards of the land, it makes also makes real dollars and cents in their farming operations,” Campbell said.

Kelley Oehler, USDA’s Branch Chief Energy Division said the budget battles that have resulted in continuing resolutions, instead of real federal budgets, actually helped more money go to REAP.

“We’re still working with budget to identify the specific amount, but what I can tell you is it is significantly more than the [$20.8 million original amount announced in the March 29, 2013 deadline],” Oehler said.

More money meant they needed more time to give out the grants for things such as grants for under $20,000 programs, feasibility study grants (up to $50,000), and grants and combination grants-loans for things like biodigesters (which could be up to $500,000 for those digesters) that dairy farmers can use to turn waste into energy. Guaranteed loan-only deadlines remain at July 15, 2013. (More information available here.) Another program, the 9005 Program (for advanced biofuels payments made from things, such as biodigesters) will have a notice go out shortly that will have an additional 30 days, usually sometime in October.

Meanwhile, Campbell and Oehler praised the recent renewal of the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) signed to accelerate the adoption of innovative waste-to-energy projects and energy efficiency improvements on U.S. dairy farms, both of which help producers diversify revenues and reduce utility expenses on their operations. The original MOU was signed in Copenhagen, Denmark, in 2009.

“Through the renewed commitment, the USDA, working with the Innovation Center for U.S. Dairy, will continue the research, development and deployment of these technologies that are helping to make dairy farmers’ operations more sustainable,” Campbell said.

Listen to an edited version of the teleconference here: USDA Teleconference on REAP

USDA Renews Dairy Energy Pact

Agriculture Secretary Vilsack today renewed a historic agreement with U.S. dairy producers to accelerate the adoption of innovative waste-to-energy projects and energy efficiency improvements on U.S. dairy farms, both of which help producers diversify revenues and reduce utility expenses on their operations. The pact extends a Memorandum of Understanding signed in Copenhagen, Denmark, in 2009.

usda-logoUSDA support for agricultural and waste-to-energy research has played a key role in the agreement’s success to date. Since signing the MOU, USDA has made nearly 180 awards that helped finance the development, construction, and biogas production of anaerobic digester systems with Rural Development programs, such as the Rural Energy for America Program (REAP), Bioenergy Program for Advanced Biofuels, Business and Industry Guaranteed Loan Program, Value Added Producer Grants, amongst others. These systems capture methane and produce renewable energy for on-farm use and sale onto the electric grid. 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.

Anaerobic digester technology is a proven method of capturing methane from waste products, such as manure, and converting into heat and electricity. The technology utilizes generators that are fueled by the captured methane. Dairy operations with anaerobic digesters routinely generate enough electricity to power hundreds of homes per year.

The Secretary was joined on a conference call to make the announcement by The Innovation Center for U.S. Dairy CEO Tom Gallagher and Doug Young, a farmer from NY who has benefited from this MOU.

Listen to that call here: USDA/Dairy MOU press call

USDA Funds 244 Agribusiness Projects

USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack has announced the funding for 244 projects across the United States that are focused on helping agricultural producers and rural small businesses. The projects will help to lower energy consumption and costs using renewable technologies. The funding is part of USDA’s Rural Energy for America Program (REAP).

“As part of President Obama’s “all of the above” energy strategy, USDA has partnered with thousands of America’s farmers, ranchers and rural businesses to help them save energy and improve their bottom line,” said Vilsack. “This effort is helping to provide stable energy costs that create an environment for sustainable job growth in rural America.”

For example, grower Matthew Gabler, based in Augusta, Wisconsin, was awarded a grant to install a new 11 kilowatt wind turbine that is estimated to produced nearly 29,000 kilo-watt hours a year for his farm.

Another example is Edaleen Cow power LLC, located in Whatcom County, Washington, has awarded a REAP loan and grant combination of $2,638,000 to install an anaerobic digester. The renewable energy project is estimated to generate 4,635 megawatt hours per year with the dairy’s 2,450-head herd as the sole manure source. The agribusiness will sell the extra electricity to the local utility and will also benefit from the bedding byproduct the digester produces.

In combination, USDA announced over $16 million in investments across the 244 projects. For a full list of awards, click here.

Vilsack Defends Ethanol at Dairy Expo

Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack held a town hall meeting at World Dairy Expo in Madison, Wisconsin this week and took questions from the audience, one of which concerned ethanol and the impact it has had on livestock producers.

The questioner, who was from California, said ethanol was “not a very popular word” with dairy farmers in her state. “Where I come from ethanol is not a four letter word,” Vilsack responded, noting that ethanol has not only helped increase profitability and production for farmers but also helped the economy, national security, and the environment. “Those are the benefits – jobs, higher incomes, lower gas costs, environmental benefits and reduction of our reliance on foreign oil,” said Vilsack.

The secretary also carefully explained that because ethanol returns livestock feed to the market in the form of distillers grains (DDGS). “We hear a lot of people say that 40% of the corn crop is being used for fuel production but it’s not really 40% because a third of it comes back in DDGS which is used by the livestock industry,” he said. “So, it’s less than 40%, more like 27 percent.”

In addition, Vilsack talked about how USDA is helping the industry move into the production of advanced ethanol using feedstocks beyond corn. “We have financed at USDA nine separate biorefineries that use corn stover, algae, switchgrass, woody biomass, agricultural waste, municipal waste,” he said.

Vilsack also defended the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) and the current request before EPA to waive that standard, noting that Congress passing a new food, farm and jobs bill would do more to help livestock producers impacted by high feed costs due to the drought than waiving the RFS would.

Listen to or download Vilsack’s comments here: Ag Secretary Vilsack on ethanol at Dairy Expo

Waste to Biogas Mapping Tool Launched

An online “waste to biogas” mapping tool has been launched by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Pacific Southwest Region. The tool maps energy projects that use organic waste as a feedstock. The maps link food and other biodegradable waste sources with facilities such as wastewater treatment plants that produce energy.

“This innovative mapping tool, the first of its kind in the nation, helps restaurants, hotels and other food waste generators to connect with large energy producers,” said Jared Blumenfeld, EPA’s Regional Administrator for the Pacific Southwest. “Harvesting this energy prevents waste from ending up in landfills or clogging sewer lines.”

Many businesses produce waste including dairy farms and waste water treatment plants. These operations manage waste such as food scraps, fats, oils and grease, by using anaerobic digesters that produce methane. Methane can then be used as an energy source by the operation or sold to others adding another profit stream to their business.

The tool enables users to determine the types of facilities in their area, where clusters are located and the distance between a waste producer and an anaerobic digester.  The tool also functions in reverse – allowing generators of organic waste to find partner facilities that will accept it. In a 2008 study conducted by the Northern California Power Agency, it was determined that agricultural, wastewater, and food processing wastes could be digested and produce 453 megawatts of energy – enough power to run a utility-scale power plant.

Research Shows Value of Ethanol Co-Product for Dairy

Research by a South Dakota State University dairy science student shows the energy value of the ethanol co-product distillers grains (DDGS) in dairy feed.

Sanjeewa Ranathunga was recognized for his research at the recent annual meeting of the Midwest American Dairy Science Association meetings with the Young Dairy Scholars Award.

Ranathunga is in the final stages of his Ph.D. program in dairy cattle nutrition at South Dakota State University under the guidance of Dr. Kenneth Kalscheur, Associate Professor in Dairy Science. During his time at SDSU, Ranathunga has conducted valuable research looking at DDGS and their impact on dairy cattle diets.

Ranathunga began his Master’s program at SDSU in dairy cattle nutrition under Kalscheur after completing an M.S. in Biochemistry at Pukyong National University in Busan, South Korea.

His Master’s research demonstrated that the non-forage fiber provided from DDGS and soyhulls can effectively replace starch provided by corn in dairy cow diets without negatively affecting the performance of dairy cows.

This research revealed that DDGS can be used as an effective energy source to replace high priced corn, and can decrease the feed cost of the diet. According to income over feed cost analysis, an economic advantage if $1.42 per cow per day was observed in this study when feeding the 21 percent DDGS diet compared with 0 percent DDGS diet.

Read more from iGrow.org.

Low-Fat Distillers Grains for Dairy

POET is targeting dairy producers with the introduction of a new low-fat distillers grains product.

The South Dakota-based ethanol producer notes that research indicates its new Dakota Gold Low Fat dried distillers grains with solubles (DDGS) can be fed to dairy cattle at a higher inclusion rate than traditional DDGS.

According to Kip Karges, PhD, Technical Services and Research Director at POET Nutrition, the product has just a 5 percent fat content, which offers a new opportunity for dairy operations that have had to limit DDGS use in the past because DDGS fat content can cause milk fat depression issues. “Dairy operations can feed more low fat DDGS to their livestock by using Dakota Gold Low Fat,” Karges said. “That will allow for optimum milk production while lowering ration cost.”

General research into the subject has shown that increasing concentrations of low-fat distillers grains have correlated to increasing efficiency of milk production. “When feeding regular DDGS you really have to limit feeds with high levels of unsaturated fatty acids and may cause limitations in formulation procedures,” said Paul Kononoff, Associate Professor of Dairy Nutrition/Dairy Nutrition Specialist at the University of Nebraska in Lincoln. “The reduction in fat in low fat DDGS allows for higher inclusion of the co-product without the worries of milk fat depression.” Kononoff and others as the University of Nebraska have performed trials for POET and will be releasing their data to the public this summer.

A deliberate research and development process was followed in bringing Dakota Gold Low Fat DDGS to market. The new Dakota Gold LF DDGS option is possible because of POET’s Voila™ Corn Oil production, which removes oil from DDGS. The resulting low fat DDGS have been researched and will continued to be researched to find new ways in which distillers grains, the second-largest traded feed ingredient on the market, can be used to produce protein for human consumption. Nutritionists at POET are providing animal research data to nutritionists and the feed industry in general regarding Dakota Gold LF DDGS. Research and nutrition details are available at the Dakota Gold website.

Wisconsin Cheese Factory Promotes Renewable Energy

Crave Brothers is promoting their commitment to the environment and renewable energy on the farm and in the farmstead cheese factory with a newly unveiled logo.

The new Crave Brothers Farmstead Cheese logo features a dairy cow inside a green circle with the words “Produced with Renewable Energy.”

In producing their family of award-winning artisan cheeses, the Crave Brothers use 100% green power, and practice water conservation and recycling. Their commitment is evident in their land management practices and in the way they care for their cows. As a carbon-negative company, they produce more electricity with their bio digester generator than they use for their dairy farm and cheese plant. Crave Brothers Farmstead Cheese goes one step further, too, inviting customers to join them in the quest for sustainability by reusing and recycling the cheese packaging. Customers can find this new logo on their cheese packages later in the year.

Crave Brothers Cheeses are created at a farmstead cheese factory in Waterloo, Wisconsin “where state-of-the-art technology promotes sustainability while maintaining traditional quality.”

Farm Foundation Hosts Renewable Energy Webinar

The use of anaerobic digesters for livestock operations in the Southwest is the focus of the Renewable Energy Education Field Day webinar planned for later this month.

The webinar will be presented on Wednesday October 26 and will examine technical, environmental and financial factors to consider when installing an anaerobic digester on a livestock operation and specifically the use of digesters with dry manure and the unique environmental issues and climatic conditions of the Southwest.

The virtual Field Day is free of charge and targeted to dairy and beef producers in New Mexico, Arizona, California, Colorado, Kansas, Oklahoma and Texas. Representatives of environmental and agricultural organizations working with livestock producers, as well as staff from state and federal agencies, are also encouraged to participate.

farmfoundationlogo3The webinar’s origination site will be the New Mexico Farm and Ranch Heritage Museum, Las Cruces, N.M., where anyone interested in the area is invited to attend live. Five viewing sites have been set up across the Southwest at Lamar Community College, Lamar, Colo.; Otero County Extension Office, Rocky Ford, Colo.; Arizona State University, Polytechnic Campus, Mesa, Ariz.; the U.S. EPA Region 9 Office, San Francisco, Calif.; and the Texas A&M’s AgriLife Research and Extension Center, Amarillo, Texas. Additional sites may be added.

Farm Foundation, NFP is organizing this webinar in collaboration with USDA Rural Development, USDA’s Office of Energy Policy and New Uses, and USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service. There is no charge to participate in this webinar, but registration is required by going to the FarmFoundation.org website. This is the second Renewable Energy Education Field Day presented by Farm Foundation, NFP and USDA agencies. Biomass was the subject of the first Field Day in November 2010.