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USDA invests in VT manure project


October 4, 2016, Colchester, VT – The U.S. Department of Agriculture is investing $26.6 million in 45 new, national projects, including one located in Vermont.

The project, which is receiving funding through Conservation Innovation Grants (CIG), will help reduce greenhouse gases and nutrient loading by providing another option for how dairy farms manage manure.

NRCS is absolutely thrilled about this effort to help dairy farmers maximize their economic potential while minimizing their impact to climate change and water quality,” said Vicky Drew, state conservationist for the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) in Vermont.

In Vermont, a $1.2 million Conservation Innovation Grant was awarded to NativeEnergy, Inc. to implement a mobile manure solids separation project. NativeEnergy is a developer of emission reduction and renewable energy investments for leaders in corporate sustainability.

The grant from NRCS will enable NativeEnergy to implement an innovative approach to improve dairy farms’ manure management, reduce greenhouse gases (GHG) at the farm, and capture and remove excess nutrients. The project will employ a technology that is proven in the broader agriculture industry (i.e., separators at larger farms with anaerobic digesters) but has historically been very difficult or impossible to financially justify at smaller farms. The NativeEnergy mobile project addresses this issue for locations where there are a number of small dairy farms in close proximity to each other.

“NativeEnergy is pleased to have been awarded funding through the Conservation Innovative Grant program,” says Jeff Bernicke, president of NativeEnergy. “In partnership with Ben and Jerry’s, we have installed similar technology on several Vermont farms to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions. The CIG funds will expand our efforts to reach smaller dairy farms in Vermont. In addition to the climate benefits, these farms will be able to reduce bedding costs and more efficiently manage nutrients, which has the potential to reduce loading in the Lake Champlain watershed.”

Nationally, the CIG funding will leverage more than $32.5 million in matching funds from cash and in-kind sources from the grantees for a total of $59.1 million, more than doubling the federal investment. The 2016 projects focus on water quality, conservation finance and assistance to existing and potential historically underserved USDA customers. CIG, administered by NRCS, is funded through the popular Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP).