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Environmental Protection & Preservation

U.S. EPA Awards Grant to UC Davis for Dairy Manure Technology Review

The US Environmental Protection Agency recently awarded the University of California, Davis nearly $15,000 to review technology for managing and treating dairy manure in the San Joaquin Valley.

The grant will fund a comprehensive review and a web-based clearinghouse of technologies designed to curb environmental impacts on soil, water and air that are caused by cow manure generated at dairies.

Government agencies, environmental groups, dairy industry groups, and UC Davis will be invited to participate in a panel reviewing these technologies and their costs, environmental impacts and resource needs. UC Davis will also maintain an on-line clearinghouse of information about technologies that reduce emissions to air and water or use dairy manure as a resource. This information is intended to be a valuable resource for dairy operators.

"The EPA is pleased to be part of this effort to identify, assess and implement innovative technologies that improve the environmental performance of dairies," said Enrique Manzanilla, Communities and Ecosystems Division director for the EPA's Pacific Southwest region. "Our goal is for dairy manure to be fully utilized for fertilizer and soil amendments, animal bedding and as a feedstock for renewable energy."

"We are excited to participate in this collaborative effort with representatives of various agencies, industry and environmental organizations," said principal investigator Deanne Meyer, a Cooperative Extension livestock waste management specialist at UC Davis. "Knowing whether technologies accomplish what they were designed to do is vitally important to the next generation of California agriculture."

The grant follows up on a report released in December 2005 that identified and assessed technologies that could improve dairy manure treatment and management. The report was part of a major effort to address dairy manure issues in the San Joaquin Valley, called the Dairy Manure Collaborative.

Participants in the Dairy Manure Collaborative have worked toward better treatment and management of dairy manure, which poses challenges to air and water quality. Dairy manure contains nutrients, salts, bacteria and organic matter that can pollute water, and it emits air pollutants including ammonia, methane and volatile organic compounds.

Since 2003, the collaborative has assessed technologies, mapped dairy locations and herd sizes, and identified funding sources that have supported more than 20 pilot projects, including anaerobic digesters to make heat, electricity, and fuel and gasification to make energy.

California is the nation's leading dairy state, and three-quarters of the state's dairy cows are located in the San Joaquin Valley. Each dairy cow produces about 150 pounds of manure per day. Over the last 30 years, the number of milk cows in California has increased to more than 1.7 million while the number of dairies has dropped by half to approximately 2,100. This concentration of the dairy industry has caused a corresponding increase in the amount and concentration of animal waste.

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