Record High Numbers of Dairy Producers Seek Funds for Methane Reduction

Posted on Wednesday, May 8th, 2019 by Renata Brillinger
Ward Burroughs checking the compost windrows at Burroughs Family Farms

The state reports record high numbers of California dairy and livestock producers seeking funds to switch to alternative manure management, upgrade their operations and reduce their production of methane, a potent greenhouse gas. 

The California Department of Food and Agriculture (CDFA) received applications from 91 dairies and livestock operations to the Alternative Manure Management Program (AMMP), seeking $54.6 million in funding, far exceeding the maximum of $33 million in available funds. The program funds dairy and livestock operations to switch from wet manure handling and storage to dry manure management.

“We saw a big increase in interest from dairy farmers we work with in the North Coast,” said Frances Tjarnstrom, Dairy Project Coordinator with the Humboldt County Resource Conservation District. “Turning manure into compost is a win-win for farmers and the environment.” 

In 2016, Governor Brown signed into law Senate Bill 1383, which requires that dairy and livestock operations in the state to cut their methane emissions by 40 percent of 2013 levels by 2030. According to the California Air Resources Board, one ton of methane has the global warming potential of 84 tons of carbon dioxide over a 20-year time frame. To help reach the goal, the state invests in methane-reducing manure management practices on farms and ranches, as part of the state’s climate change investments. 

“For most dairies, alternative manure management is the way to go to address a host of environmental issues and upgrade their operations,” said Jeanne Merrill, Policy Director with the California Climate and Agriculture Network. “Turning manure into compost is an important climate and healthy soils strategy.”

Since launching the AMMP program in 2017,  CDFA has funded 57 dairy and livestock projects. Grants are available to underwrite the cost of switching from the commonly used flush water lagoon systems to drier manure management strategies such as composting, solids separation, and increased pasture time. These approaches not only curb climate change but they can also reduce groundwater contamination, improve air quality, lower water use, and reduce odors. Two-thirds of funded operations are turning manure into compost.

One recent applicant, Ward Burroughs of Burroughs Family Farms in Denair said: “With this grant, we plan to upgrade our barn and compost the manure right under the animals, helping us produce compost more efficiently to spread on our pastures for fertility.”

“Because milk prices paid to dairy producers have been depressed for more than four years, dairy producers often can’t afford to make changes to their practices,” said Lynne McBride, Executive Director of the California Farmers Union. “This is the only program of its kind in the country, and our members are eager to be a part of California’s climate solutions.”

Right now, Governor Newsom and the California legislature are debating the 2019-2020 fiscal year budget for the state, including the cap-and-trade revenue allocations. We hope that the obvious popularity of AMMP serves to encourage them to fund it with $40 million in the coming year.

More information on the AMMP program is available here: http://calclimateag.org/ammp/

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