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June 19, 2012

MADISON - June is Dairy Month, and Wisconsin's got good reasons to celebrate some green gains along with the dairy industry's economic, cultural and culinary importance to the state, state environmental officials say.

Video: More dairies are joining Wisconsin's environmental leadership program, Green Tier.

"Dairying is a huge part of who we are what we do in Wisconsin," says Department of Natural Resources Secretary Cathy Stepp. "We recognize the importance of our dairy farmers and the industry, and want to highlight some important gains that help better protect the environment and farmers' bottom line."

Stepp says that dairy farmers and others in the dairy industry have worked hard with county, state and federal agricultural, energy and natural resource staff to achieve the following green gains:

  1. Wisconsin is the nation's leader in converting animal manure into green energy. In 2009, methane gas produced by anaerobic manure digesters generated 657.1 million Kilowatt hours in Wisconsin, up 600 percent from a decade earlier and enough to power more than 67,000 homes. Wisconsin Boasts Lead in cow power (exit DNR).
  2. More dairies are entering DNR's environmental leadership program, called Green Tier, to help improve their environmental performance and their bottom line, with the lessons learned helping benefit the industry and regulators.
  3. Counties reported a 12 percent increase statewide in the number of nutrient management plans developed to help farmers manage manure and commercial fertilizer in 2010, the most recent years for which statistics are available. Such plans guide when, where and how much manure and other nutrients farmers spread, maximizing manure as a crop fertilizer, reducing overapplication that can result in runoff that can pollute lakes, streams and drinking water, according to the 2010 Wisconsin Land and Water Conservation Annual Progress Report (PDF) (exit DNR).
  4. Nearly 170,000 acres of buffers, reduced tillage and other best management practices to reduce erosion from cropland were installed in 2010 in Wisconsin, and more than 500 manure storage facilities, sediment basins, and other best management practices to better manage manure on farms were installed in 2010, according to the 2010 Wisconsin Land and Water Conservation Annual Progress Report (PDF) (exit DNR).
  5. More Wisconsin farmers are developing emergency plans for handling manure spills and reporting such occurrences immediately, environmental officials say, allowing for quicker response that can prevent or minimize runoff into lakes, streams or drinking water. Case in point: An Allenton farmer's emergency planning and quick action on April 4, 2012 in calling the DNR's Spill Emergency Hotline, close cooperation with the DNR, and fast clean up work prevented a 100-gallon manure spill from polluting Wisconsin waters. Watch DNR's "How to Respond to a Manure Spill" video (exit DNR) to see other measures that farmers and the county, state and federal staff working with them take to keep manure on the land.
  6. Wisconsin led the nation in grass-based dairy farms, with one survey showing that nearly 30 percent of new dairy farmers using managed grazing, almost twice the rate for dairy farmers as a whole at that time. The benefits to farmers, their dairy cows, and the soil and water are detailed in "Green pastures, green futures," in the December 2008 Natural Resources magazine.
  7. Wisconsin leads the nation in organic dairy farms, with the number of such farms growing 157 percent from 2002 to 2007. Wisconsin sales of organic milk accounted for 11.4 percent of the U.S. total, according to Organic Agriculture in Wisconsin: 2012 status report (exit DNR).

For more information on dairy farming and green gains, go to the DNR website and search for agri-business.

FOR MORE INFORMATION CONTACT: Tom Bauman (608) 266-9993

Last Revised: Tuesday, June 19, 2012

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