California Department of Food and Agriculture (CDFA) announced this month that California’s dairy farms will soon be more than halfway to achieving the state’s world-leading target for reducing methane.
The update was part of CDFA’s announcement that an additional $102m (~€109m) has been awarded this year to support the implementation of dairy methane reduction projects. 93 new projects were funded, including 43 methane digesters that capture methane and 50 alternative manure management projects. There are currently more than 229 dairy methane reduction projects in operation or under development on California dairy farms.
Through the implementation of these projects, CDFA estimates 2.2 million metric tons of greenhouse gases will be reduced each year. That’s approximately 25 percent of the 2013 California inventory for dairy and livestock manure methane emissions. The state’s target is a 40 percent reduction below 2013 levels by 2030. In total, the state has now invested $260m in dairy methane reduction projects. California’s dairy farm families and other investors have matched that with more than $360m in private funding.
“It’s important to recognise the strong partnerships we as farmers have with our state agencies,” said Dairy Cares’ chairman, Charles “Chuck” Ahlem. “Through this collaboration, we are leading the world in sustainable dairy farm practices. By aggressively reducing methane and continuing to do more with less water, fewer fossil fuels, and less energy, we will continue to meet challenges and ensure the availability of sustainable and highly-nutritious dairy products that consumers love.”
“I am excited to receive a digester grant,” said Gerben Leyendekker, a Tulare County dairy farmer. “It is great to see digesters being built in California! My family is excited to help keep our valley air clean by creating transportation fuel from our dairy.”
The biogas from Leyendekker’s digester will be piped to a centralised biogas upgrading facility that will collect biogas from 11 neighbouring dairies to create carbon-negative, renewable natural gas (RNG). The clean-burning renewable fuel will be used in heavy-duty trucks, replacing diesel and significantly reducing emissions of NOx—a smog-forming gas.
“Dairy biogas-to-transportation-fuel projects that replace diesel trucks have the potential to significantly reduce transportation emissions in the San Joaquin Valley and other regions of the state,” said Samir Sheikh, Executive Director of the San Joaquin Valley Air Pollution Control District.
Dairy Cares estimates that digester projects currently under development will soon enable the annual production of enough clean-burning renewable fuel to reduce NOx emissions by more than 1,110 tons each year. This estimate will grow significantly as additional projects are built. As a result, California’s dairy farms will not only reduce methane, but will contribute greatly to the state’s clean air goals.
In addition to digesters, California family dairy farms are implementing projects that prevent the production of methane from manure management. These projects include dry-scrape systems, manure separators and compost pack barns, which all reduce methane production on farms. Like digesters, these projects can provide additional environmental benefits.
“Every dairy farmer cares about the environment, but these improvements can be very expensive,” said Richard Wagner, a recent grant recipient from San Joaquin County. “We are contributing a significant portion of the total project costs, but without incentive funding from the state, we wouldn’t be able to move forward. We are glad to be a part of this effort.”
As the state’s dairy farmers shrink their methane emissions to unprecedented levels, they are also working to improve water conservation and protection, improve air quality, and advance soil health. These and other sustainability efforts will be highlighted at the California Dairy Sustainability Summit, to take place March 25-26, 2020 in Sacramento.
Dairy Cares is a state-wide coalition with a mission to ensure the long-term sustainability of California’s dairy farm families through strong environmental stewardship and responsible animal care. Members include California’s farmer-owned milk cooperatives, privately-owned milk processors, and trade associations.