State offers $20 million to help large farms turn waste into electricity
Monday, January 20, 2014 - 11:17 am

The state will offer $20 million in subsidies to help large dairy farms turn waste into energy.

An additional $1 million in funding will be available to farmers for the purpose of establishing business plans.

The funding for these efforts stem from recommendations made at the governor’s Yogurt Summit in 2012 to ensure that the industry continues to grow and create jobs in New York State.

The majority of the $21 million will go to dairy farms interested in installing "waste-to-energy anaerobic digesters."

While these systems can reduce energy costs for large-scale farms, they are often cost prohibitive for smaller dairy farms.

Starting on Jan. 17, $20 million will be available through NYSERDA to install anaerobic digester technology that produces renewable biogas used to produce electricity and heat from organic wastes. Farms, food processing manufacturers or municipal wastewater sites would be eligible for up to $2 million per project.

Biogas-to-power technology has several steps. Dairy manure and other organic wastes are pumped into digestion tanks where bacteria break down the waste, creating a methane-rich gas called biogas and a nutrient-rich effluent that can be applied to crops as fertilizer. The biogas is burned in engines to produce electricity and heat. Through this process, farmers can often eliminate a significant portion of the electricity they would otherwise purchase from the utility grid, and periodically export surplus electricity onto the electrical grid in exchange for credits. Furthermore, farmers can realize operational savings in other areas as well.

Over the past 10 years, NYSERDA and the New York Power Authority have awarded nearly $30 million toward anaerobic digestion projects and related technology, resulting in significant energy savings to New York-based businesses while reducing the use of fossil fuel. Currently, this funding supports 20 operational digester projects. The digester technology funding will be available on a first-come, first-served basis for eligible projects.

The small $1 million allotment will allow dairy farmers to hire consultants.

Funding for the Dairy Acceleration Program (DAP) will be increased by $850,000, which is in addition to the $1 million announced by the Governor this past August. DAP is jointly funded by the Department of Agriculture and Markets and DEC. DAP is resonating very positively with dairy farmers across the state, most with herds under 300 cows. Combined with some funding still available under the current program, this new funding will serve at least 100 more dairy farms across New York.

Payments under DAP may include: up to $5,000 per farm to write a business plan or develop a combination of a business and facility growth plan; and up to $4,500 to update an existing Comprehensive Nutrient Management Plan (CNMP) or $6,000 to develop a new one. Additional funds also will be available to design farm practices described in CNMPs. CNMPs are a conservation system for animal feeding operations designed to address soil erosion and water quality concerns. The CNMP encompasses the storage and handling of manure as well as using and applying manure nutrients on farm land. Through DAP, the state awarded dozens of projects already for farms with an average herd of about 140 cows.

Business planning may include financial analysis, farmstead development planning, facility planning and capital investment planning for increased milk production per cow. Environmental planning includes CNMP development and updates. Farms without an existing CNMP can hire a certified Nutrient Management planner to develop a new CNMP.

To be eligible for DAP, a dairy cattle farm must have complete financial records. Preference will be given to farms with under 300 cows. DAP funding will cover up to 80 percent of a project’s cost.

Modern milk production requires expertise from a number of disciplines, ranging from agronomics, environmental science, animal husbandry, crop science, human resource management, and financial and strategic planning. Through DAP, farmers will be able to tap into the expertise of the Cornell Cooperative Extension (CCE) network, Cornell PRO-DAIRY, certified Agricultural Environmental Management planners and other agricultural programs to facilitate and grow their business and in turn increase production on their farms.

To apply for DAP, visit http://ansci.cornell.edu/prodairy/dairy_acceleration/.