Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced last week that $2 million will be made available to dairy, beef, poultry, and swine producers for energy evaluations. The new agriculture energy conservation and efficiency initiative, announced in conjunction with a meeting of the Innovation Center for U.S. Dairy and the USDA, will provide funds for on-farm energy audits this year and will cover approximately 1,000 energy evaluations in 29 states. Funding for the program is being made possible through the Natural Resources Conservation Service's Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP). According to the Innovation Center for U.S. Dairy, the Natural Resources Conservation Service conducted a survey of its state offices to determine which states were prepared to participate in the program. The 29 states announced by USDA reflect those states that indicated an ability to participate in this first phase. To find out if your state is one of the 29, click here.

"In these tough economic times, anything we can do to cut energy costs will improve our bottom line and help keep producers in business," said Richard Clauss, vice-chair of the Innovation Center for U.S. Dairy and a dairy producer from Hilmar, Calif.

Producers will select an independent, certified consultant who will conduct the audits. Energy savings recommendations identified in the evaluations may be implemented by producers at their discretion. When looking at energy on your farm, the first step is to determine where energy can be conserved, so be sure to not skip ahead to large, capital intensive renewable energy projects.

The U.S. dairy industry has committed to reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 25 percent by 2020. Energy efficiency is one way we can work towards achieving this target. Contact your local utility to find out if it participates in assistance programs for updating equipment for greater energy efficiency.