PLATTSBURGH — U.S. Sen. Charles E. Schumer has launched a plan to allow upstate New York dairy farmers to increase their herds in order to fully capitalize on the Greek-yogurt boom.
Greek yogurt is a nutritious, more creamy type of product that has caught on nationally.
Schumer is pushing for the revival of the federal Section 1603 grant program, which provided funds for dairy farms to construct biodigesters, which convert organic waste into a nutrient-rich fertilizer and biogas, a renewable source of electrical and heat energy, according to a news release from his office this week.
“Simply put, one of the main barriers family farmers face when expanding is the cost and difficulty of disposing of the increased manure,” Schumer said.
“Because biodigesters turn this cow waste into clean energy and nutrient-rich fertilizer, they can be an essential part of the plan to enable our dairy farmers to fully capitalize on the Greek-yogurt boom.
“But, our cash-strapped farmers need help setting up this operation, and that’s why I am launching this drive to add resources to the 1603 loan program, which has a proven track record of helping our dairy farmers establish biodigesters.”
Under the newly proposed Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations regulations for New York, in August, 4,455 dairy farms with fewer than 200 cows could increase their herds by at least 100 cows to better meet the demand for milk that is being fueled by the growing yogurt industry, according to 2010 data from Cornell University.
Schumer provided a county-by-county breakdown of the number of dairy farms in upstate New York and the number of cows, at minimum, that those farms could add under the newly proposed regulations. Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations are defined as facilities of 200 or more large animals that are concentrated into relatively small areas.
In the North Country, the 872 dairy operations could add at least 87,200 new cows, according to the figures.
Schumer said that as both yogurt production and dairy farms expand, the number of regional and on-site biodigester facilities equipped to process their food and animal waste and protect the environment must also increase.
In addition to manure, digesters can also turn whey, a byproduct of yogurt production, into new renewable energy, providing yogurt producers with a direct way to benefit from what they now simply send to disposal, the senator said.
Schumer highlighted that the Section 1603 Payments for Specified Renewable Energy Property in Lieu of Tax Credits program provides cash, rather than a tax credit, meaning 100 percent of the benefit goes directly to the project.
He noted that Synergy Biogas in Wyoming County utilized the Section 1603 program to receive a $2,372,406 grant that allowed the farm to build its co-digestion biogas facility, which converts animal waste from its herd and food waste from local food processors into energy that reduces the cost of the dairy’s operation.
Synergy also generates enough electricity to power about 1,600 homes.
“Upstate New York dairy farms must grow to meet new demands for milk and Greek yogurt, and that means one thing’s for certain: more biodigesters are key to accommodating the larger herds that will soon be grazing New York’s pastures,” Schumer said.
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