WASHINGTON --Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack today commemorated the one year anniversary of a historic agreement to help U.S. dairy producers cut greenhouse gas emissions. The agreement was signed during climate change talks in Copenhagen, Denmark on December 15, 2009.

"The partnership between USDA and U.S. dairy producers to increase sustainability has achieved remarkable results over the past year," said Vilsack. "USDA has awarded funding to establish 30 anaerobic digesters, and we are assisting farmers with digester feasibility studies and energy audits to help producers reduce greenhouse gas emissions, while increasing on-farm income. The partnership is a demonstration of the Obama Administration's commitment to producing renewable energy, providing new economic opportunities to farmers, and preserving natural resources."

On December 15, 2009, USDA and the Innovation Center for U.S. Dairy signed a sustainability-focused Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) to work in concert to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from dairy farms by 25 percent by 2020. Since the signing, USDA and the Center have partnered to increase the number of operating anaerobic digesters on farms, and encouraged research and development of new technologies to help dairies reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

Developments since the signing of the agreement include:

* Funds were provided to establish 30 anaerobic digesters in fiscal year 2010.
* USDA is helping dairy farmers conduct economic feasibility studies on anaerobic digesters.
* Cross-agency collaboration between the Farm Service Agency (FSA), Rural Development and the Natural Resources Conservation Service is facilitating sustainability programs including the financing of digesters.
* A new FSA loan program is helping finance a number of on-farm sustainability efforts.
* The Biomass Crop Assistance Program includes plant feedstock for use in on-farm digesters.
* USDA has identified on-farm energy efficiency measures and equipment that are eligible for cost-share funds.
* USDA staff liaisons were assigned to the Innovation Center to work on energy audits and the sustainability initiative.
* A total of $450,000 was committed to dairy processor research needs.
* U.S. Dairy was awarded a $225,000 Conservation Innovation Grant to conduct outreach and education on energy conservation.
* A joint USDA-U.S. Dairy industry research strategy summit was held to examine on-farm research needs to improve resource management.
* A $50,000 planning grant facilitated a greenhouse gas initiative.
* A $200,000 contribution agreement from USDA will help farmers gain access to and information about on-farm energy audits and energy conservation practices.

USDA offers several programs that can help with the cost of an anaerobic digester, including the new FSA Conservation Loan program, the Rural Energy for America Program (REAP), the Value-Added Producer Grant, and the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP). USDA can also help with the cost of an energy audit/feasibility study to help producers determine if a digester makes sense for their operation. For more information, contact any USDA Service Center.