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Community digester operations and dairy farmer perspectives
- Swindal, Megan G., Gillespie, Gilbert W., Welsh, Rick J.
- Agriculture and human values 2010 v.27 no.4 pp. 461-474
- anaerobic digestion, cows, dairy industry, economies of scale, electricity, energy, energy costs, environmental policy, farm operators, farms, herd size, methane, odors, organic production, power generation, surveys, New York
- Rising energy costs, increasing herd sizes, and other structural changes affecting the New York dairy industry may make farmers receptive to new energy production technologies. Anaerobic digestion represents a possible benefit to farmers by reducing odor while producing methane for electricity. However, current digester designs are for herd sizes of 300 or more cows, with significant economies of scale, so smaller operators may have little interest in the technology. Moreover, without a favorable policy environment and reliable grant programs, the initial investments required for digester installation might deter operators. One solution to these issues may be community digesters, which are centrally located facilities that accept manure from multiple farms. Data from a survey of New York dairy farmers were used to assess farmers' interest in community digesters. In general, interest was associated with power generation outcomes and reservations about organic farming practices; advocates might encourage their use among smaller conventional farm operators looking for new sources of profit and diversification.