WASHINGTON, March 14, 2012-The dairy industry had a rare opportunity last week to brag to the Obama administration about its progress toward a goal of a 25% cut in greenhouse gas emissions between 2008 and 2020. Officials of the Sustainability Council of the Innovation Center for U.S. Dairy had two hours with senior USDA and White House officials at the old Executive Office Building
It gave the industry an opening to counter criticism of its environmental record, sometimes advanced by groups generally opposed to animal agriculture. Because of better productivity and efficiency, the industry can now produce a gallon of milk with 90% less land, 65% less water, 75% less manure and 63% less carbon emission than half a century ago, according to papers prepared for the meeting. It touts a similar trend in the supply chain as fewer, more efficient companies are processing and selling milk and dairy products.
Among administration officials in attendance were Celia Munoz, director of the White House Domestic Policy Council; Nancy Sutley, chair of the Council on Environmental Quality, Heather Zichal, deputy assistant to the president for energy and climate change, and Krysta Harden, chief of staff for Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack. In December 2009, Vilsack endorsed the effort with an agreement to help accelerate adoption of manure-to-energy projects on dairy farms.
Industry speakers were led by Sustainability Council Chairman Mike McCloskey, whose 27,000-cow Fair Oaks Dairy complex in Indiana is considered one of the most innovative in the country. Before the meeting, he told an industry luncheon of a project that converted 42 semi-trailer milk tankers to run on compressed natural gas from dairy farm digesters. Another digester venture using waste from 22 dairy farms in the Southwest “will become a model” for the nation, said McCloskey, who is also CEO of Select Milk Producers cooperative in the Southwest.
Administration officials also heard from Paul Rovey, an Arizona dairy farmer who chairs Dairy Management, Inc., and spokesmen for Dean Foods, Dairy Farmers of America, the Northwest Dairy Association/Darigold in Washington State and Cabot Creamery Cooperative in Vermont.
The meeting followed the luncheon for presentation of the center’s first sustainability awards to dairy farms and processors for recycling waste, reducing energy and water use, cutting pollution from nutrient application, installation of solar energy systems or the use of anaerobic digesters to convert waste into electricity or gas. One winner was a venture of Dean Foods and AgPower Partners in Idaho, the first third party-owned and operated dairy waste digester in the nation, which produces enough power for about 900 homes and 34,000 cubic yards of ammonia-free landscape fertilizer. Another, Brubaker Farms in Pennsylvania, in one recent year made more money selling electricity from its digester than it made from selling milk.
Original story printed in March 14, 2012 Agri-Pulse Newsletter.
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