climate-column-waste-managementBy Tom Somrack, NFU Government Relations Intern

All livestock create manure and waste, and how this waste is managed can influence climate change. According to USDA’s Building Blocks for Climate Smart Agriculture, manure management programs can significantly decrease greenhouse gas emissions. When livestock manure is treated and stored in anaerobic conditions, decomposition results in large emissions of methane. Greenhouse gas emissions are significant in areas where concentrated agricultural feeding operations (CAFOs) are located. Based on EPA statistics, manure management accounts for about 14% of the total greenhouse gas emissions from the Agriculture sector in the United States.

Greenhouse gas emissions resulting from livestock manure are reduced by controlling the way in which manure decomposes and by capturing methane from manure decomposition to produce renewable energy. An example of reducing emissions from manure involves spreading the manure on pasture and fields, rather than storing it in a liquid-based lagoon. A second example of emission reduction systems for manure involves the use of a manure digester, which simply put, stores the manure in anaerobic containment areas, and then captures the methane to be used as renewable energy.

The USDA Midwest and Northern Forests Regional Climate Hub’s Assessment of Climate Change Vulnerability and Adaptation and Mitigation Strategies states that the largest sources of methane emissions in the agricultural sector are anaerobic lagoons, deep pits, and liquid/slurry systems, primarily with dairy and swine waste.

Do you have waste management plans on your farms? The challenge of controlling manure and managing waste is important to the success of every farm, and to farming with climate change in mind. Learn more by staying posted with NFU’s blog and checking out USDA’s Climate Hubs.

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