Dairy Farms Impact on Climate Change - Jillian Hishaw Esq.

Dairy Farms Impact on Climate Change

The storage of large amounts of manure on any sized livestock operation is often met with challenges. The use of manure fertilizer is often a better alternative than mineral fertilizer but too much of a good thing has consequences. Too much manure application increases the production of methane gas, which in turn affects climate change. Anaerobic digester converts liquid manure into methane with the use of bacteria and no oxygen. According to a 2011 National Hog Farmers article, Charles Gould, Michigan State University Extension, “90% of the anaerobic digester is currently in place can be found on farms of 500 cows or more.”

A farm must conduct a preliminary, technical and financial assessment prior to moving forward with digester implementation. The preliminary assessment involves an operator determining if they have the capacity to meet the manure availability, management, electricity, and maintenance requirements. [i] The technical assessment focuses on the digester system type, size, and onsite capacity.[ii] Financial consideration is essential and is the main deterrents for many livestock operators. Assessing the availability of state tax credits, federal funding, carbon credits, sale of electricity, and low-interest loans, are all ways to reduce the initial costs.[iii] The USDA program, the Rural Energy for America Program provides up to $500,000 of unrestricted funds for non-renewable projects like methane digesters construction on agricultural lands.

[iv] Nationally, mostly all states offer some type of incentive for nonrenewable projects. California offers the most incentive programs at 272, followed by Minnesota at 212 and Texas at 166.[v] Jillian Hishaw, Esq. LL.M. (Agricultural Law) is the Founder and Director of F.A.R.M.S. a regional non-profit in the Southeast that provides legal and technical services to small farmers and Owners of Hishaw Law LL.C. For more information about Hishaw’s work please visit www.hishawlaw.com or www.30000acres.org.


[i] U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. n.d. AgStar: Financing. Available online: https://www.epa.gov/agstar/financing-anaerobic-digestion-projects

[ii] Ibid.

[iii] U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. 2012. Funding On-Farm Anaerobic Digestion. Available online: https://www.epa.gov/sites/production/files/2014-12/documents/funding_digestion.pdf

[iv] U.S. Department of Agriculture. n.d. Rural Development: Program & Services: Rural Energy for America Program. Available online: https://www.rd.usda.gov/programs-services/rural-energy-america-program-renewable-energy-systems-energy-efficiency

[v] Dsire. n.d. Systems: Programs: Maps. NC Clean Energy Technology Center. N.C. State University. Available online: http://programs.dsireusa.org/system/program/maps