Dairy Plus Program Awards Grant for Agricultural Methane Reduction

Livestock grazing on a farm

(Credit: Unsplash)

by | Jan 24, 2024

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The California Dairy Research Foundation and the Department of Food and Agriculture have awarded a nearly $18 million grant for 15 California dairy farm projects meant to reduce methane emissions while improving nutrient and water management.

The incentive will support farms as they implement alternative manure management programs and dairy digester research and development projects. Supported projects include methods such as vermifiltration, or filtering manure wastewater using worms, and weeping walls, a non-mechanical method of separating manure solids from water. Other projects will capture methane by using digesters, which are used to control the decomposition of organic waste and convert methane emissions into alternative fuels and fertilizers.

Project methods will help reduce methane production caused by livestock waste and will also help improve groundwater protection for California dairy farms. The funding will allow these emerging technologies to reach full-scale operations, allowing for 150,000 tons of carbon emissions reductions annually among the projects.

Reducing Agriculture-Related Methane Emissions Key to Global Climate Goals

The UN Environment Programme considers reducing methane emissions a crucial piece of meeting global decarbonization targets.  A considerable amount of methane emissions are caused by the oil and gas sector, and rules have been recently established by the EPA to require oil and gas facilities to eliminate routine flaring and monitor methane leaks.

Meanwhile, methane caused by livestock accounts for about 32% of human-caused methane emissions, and research has shown that the largest meat and dairy producers have failed to reduce emissions in recent years. A report from the Coller FAIRR Protein Producer Index found that twenty of the largest meat and dairy producers have instead experienced a 3% rise in disclosed emissions from 2022 to 2023.

As demand for animal protein is expected to increase by up to 70% by 2050, livestock farmers may adopt methane-reducing technologies like digesters or feed additives and adopt sustainable manure management techniques. Many organizations also promote reducing consumption of animal products and adopting plant-heavy diets to dramatically reduce methane emissions.

Reducing methane emissions may allow near-term benefits for the climate, and with current technologies, the UN estimates that human-caused methane emissions may be reduced by 45% by 2030. This level of methane reduction would reportedly avert nearly 0.3 degrees Celsius of global warming by 2045, prevent 260,000 premature heaths, and help avoid 25 million tons of crop losses.

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