Governor Andrew M. Cuomo today announced nearly $21 million will be available to create new economic opportunities for New York's dairy farmers by helping them to produce renewable energy and improve their business operations. The funding will help dairy farmers convert farm waste to energy and develop individualized business and environmental plans to reduce operating costs and increase profitability. The funding for these efforts stem from recommendations made at Governor Cuomo's Yogurt Summit in 2012 to ensure that the industry continues to grow and create jobs in New York State. In his 2014 State of the State Address, Governor Cuomo pledged a second Yogurt Summit to identify additional economic growth opportunities within this growing sector of the economy.
"The State is committed to creating new economic opportunities for our dairy farmers, who have helped make New York the Yogurt Capital of the nation," Governor Cuomo said. "With this funding, we are providing significant financial assistance to farmers so they can cut their energy costs, increase efficiencies in their operations, and develop plans to expand their businesses and contribute to cleaner communities. This year, we are also launching a second Yogurt Summit to ensure the state's dairy industry continues to thrive and grow the Upstate economy."
John B. Rhodes, President and CEO, New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA), said, "The anaerobic digester funding coupled with the Dairy Acceleration Program funding is another step the State is taking, under Governor Cuomo, to assist farmers in reducing their operating costs and in generating clean energy. Farmers that utilize anaerobic digester technology are able to produce renewable energy and lower their costs while providing a number of environmental benefits to their local communities."
Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) Commissioner Joe Martens said, "Governor Cuomo's continued support has achieved environmentally responsible growth in the dairy industry throughout the state. This collaboration with our partners, including Cornell University, provides farms with the technical expertise they need to help protect New York's natural resources and open spaces."
Waste-to-Energy Anaerobic Digesters
Starting on January 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.
Dairy Acceleration Program
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.
Tom Overton, Professor of Dairy Management at Cornell University and Director of PRO-DAIRY, said, "We have been very pleased with the excellent response of New York dairy farmers to this program to date. The awarded projects have been of high quality and will help these farms both meet the increased demand for milk and be successful as businesses. These new funds will be directed entirely toward funding additional projects under this program. We thank Governor Cuomo and New York State for their vision in recognizing that success at the farm-level is imperative for long-term support of our growing dairy manufacturing industry."
Gary and Connie Menard, Owners of Happy Haven Dairy, a 60-cow dairy farm in Clinton County, said, "Our dairy farm has begun our very first generational transfer. This brings us to a crossroads that offers many options and possibilities. The Dairy Acceleration Program has allowed us to hire independent consultants to crunch our numbers and evaluate our business with the goal of offering profitable suggestions as we move forward. These types of professional people are always impractical to hire at our farm size because the cost was always prohibitive with the cash flow that smaller farms work with. Our farm has a very exciting future and the Dairy Acceleration Program came at a perfect time for us. We strongly suggest any progressive farm willing to make changes for a better future to look into this program."