Lockport Union-Sun & Journal — U.S. Sen. Chuck Schumer is calling for the revival of an energy incentive that would allow New York farmers to increase cow herds to expand milk production.
If the federal 1603 cash grant program were to be revived, it would provide dairy farmers with money for the initial construction costs to build new biodigesters, machines that turn animal waste into nutrient fertilizer and create biogas, a renewable source of energy. Schumer said the new biodigesters would allows farmers to expand and add those extra cows needed to keep up with the growing demand for Greek yogurt.
“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 in a conference call with reporters. “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.”
The 1603 grant program, created by the federal Recovery Act, was designed to reimburse businesses for renewable energy products. The program expired at the end of 2011, although prior to that, some projects were approved and in the works so they are still active under the program and receiving the incentive.
Schumer’s office said 33 dairy farmers in Niagara County, 557 total in Western New York, would be able to take advantage of the 1603 program and expand to meet the milk demand.
A state regulation, Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations, was changed in August to allow about 4,455 dairy farms with less than 200 cows to grow by 100 cows to meet growing yogurt demands without being hit with additional costs. Small farms had called for the increase, saying that they couldn’t grow without being hit with hundreds of thousands of dollars in added expenses.
On the conference call, Schumer was joined by Lauren Toretta, vice president of CH4 Biogas and John Noble, president and CEO of Synergy Dairy, who discussed the importance of the Section 1603 program for their biodigester projects. The duo said by utilizing its natural resources better and the Greek yogurt industry, New York could play an even larger role in the dairy and food business.
Ch4 Biogas has at least three projects under active consideration that would be put within reach with the 1603 program. The first is a digester under consideration in Lowville, N.Y. in Lewis County, which would convert the nearby food waste and manure from up to 20 nearby dairies into renewable electricity and gas to heat the nearby Kraft Foods plant. The second is under consideration in Linwood, N.Y. in Livingston County and would be fueled by waste at the Noblehurst Dairy. The third project is at a 3,000 cow dairy in Oneida County, which is approximately 30 miles away from Chobani yogurt.
Synergy Biogas in Wyoming County utilized the 1603 program to receive a $2,372,406 grant, which allowed the farm to build its co-digestion biogas facility. It converts animal waste from the farm’s 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.Contact reporter Joe Olenickat 439-9222, ext. 6241.