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TAS Country : June 21st 2012
12 Tasmanian Country Friday, June 22, 2012 News Cow pats' potential ROGER HANSON Carbon credits for sale BEN GEARD: Environmental improvements will benefit the wider community in the long term.'' 'The methodology, if approved, will reward dairy farmers who take steps to capture methane and generate renewable energy' ---SID SIDEBOTTOM TASMANIAN dairy farmers could have a money-making method sitting right under their noses. Dairy farmers could earn carbon credits through the Federal Govern- ment's Carbon Farming Initiative by capturing and destroying greenhouse gases. Broadmarsh dairy farmer Ben Geard, from Green Glory Holsteins in southern Tasmania, said Australian farmers are constantly looking at ways to be more efficient. ''Farmers are always looking to improve their environment on farm, as well as the wider environment, so any assistance by the government via carbon credits and grant assistance would be welcomed by farmers,'' Mr Geard said. ''Environmental improvements will benefit the wider community in the long term. ''Particularly in the face of increased costs through the entire milk pro- duction process due to the implemen- tation of the carbon tax.'' Mr Geard, as part of his role as last year's Australian Dairy conference chairman, and his wife Nat will be attending the European Dairy Con- gress in Belgium, which started this week. ''I'm sure this type of technology is high of mind over there and possibly some way ahead of us.'' DairyTas executive officer Mark Smith said the initiative to support investment around methane capture for dairy farmers is welcomed. ''We recognise that further work is needed to investigate the commercial viability of this technique for pasture- based dairy farm systems that operate in Tasmania,'' Mr Smith said. ''We are pleased to support and be involved in this initiative to see where farmers might benefit and gain some offsets from the carbon tax impacts on the industry.'' The Government has given $1 mil- lion to Dairy Australia to tell farmers how it works. Parliamentary Secretary for Climate Change and Energy Efficiency Mark Dreyus said the plant provides an opportunity for dairy farmers to cut power bills by turning gas into a source of electricity or heat. ''The system involves putting a cover over manure ponds, which are com- monly used by dairy farmers to man- age liquid dairy manure produced in running their operation,'' Mr Dreyus said. A methane digester, or tarp, covers the effluent pond, captures the meth- ane and uses the biogas as a form of energy. Flowerdale farmer Wayne Hansen, 48, who has been dairying for 30 years, said the plan sounded like an economi- cal way of converting waste into energy. ''But the logistics of such a project could prove uneconomical,'' he said. Mr Hansen said he has attended Dairy Tas seminars on converting biowaste into energy but said the science was ''way out of my field of expertise''. Mr Hansen is an equity partner with another farmer in the 200ha dairy farm Currajong 10km west of Wynyard. He milks 480 Friesian and Jersey cross cows year round to supply Cadbury. Cow poo from the dairy is hosed into two settling ponds before pumped through an irrigator on to paddocks. ''Whatever we put in one day, comes out the next,'' Mr Hansen said. The Tasmanian Farmers and Graz- iers Association policy and advocacy manager Nick Steel said the TFGA will wait until the initiative is approved. ''We will wait before assessing the fine print and finalising a position on the proposed carbon farming method- ology for methane,'' Mr Steel said. The new carbon farming plan for dairy farmers is open to public com- ment. Parliamentary Secretary for Agricul- ture, Fisheries and Forestry Sid Sidebottom has encouraged Tasman- ian dairy farmers to take part in the consultation. ''This is an important economic and environmental opportunity for dairy farmers,'' Mr Sidebottom said. ''The methodology, if approved, will reward dairy farmers who take steps to capture methane and generate renew- able energy.'' Mr Sidebottom said the carbon cap- ture plan works in piggeries, which have already started to use it. Dairy farmers will be excluded from paying a direct carbon price on emis- sions when carbon price starts on July 1. The dairy carbon capture plan is up for public consultation for 40 days. Another draft plan about to be released for comment is about feeding food supplements to dairy cattle to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions, by burping and passing wind. Dairy companies are also among the first recipients of grants under the government's $1 billion Clean Tech- nology Investment Program, which will assist with investment in new energy-efficient manufacturing equip- ment and processes. 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