Sen. Schumer pushing for 1603 Program renewal

By Anna Simet | September 18, 2012

In order to accommodate the need for increased cattle herds in New York to meet high demand for New York Greek yogurt, U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., has launched a plan that involves the revival of the federal U.S. Department of Treasury’s 1603 Program.

Adding more cows to dairies would mean more manure and a need for means to dispose of it, pointed out Schumer—an active proponent of renewable energy in New York—during a Sept 12 conference call. If renewed, the expired 1603 program could help overcome initial financial barriers by providing farmers with a one-time, upfront cash grant in lieu of the Section 45 production tax credit and Section 48 investment tax credit, to help construct biodigesters for the production of manure-derived electricity, heat and fertilizer.

Before the program expired with the end of 2011, 1603 helped fund more than 24,000 renewable energy projects across the U.S. The bulk of them were wind and solar, but 46 biomass projects funded received a combined total of $171.3 million, and five of them were diary digester projects in New York. That includes CH4 Biogas’s codigestion biogas facility at Synergy Dairy, which received a $2.4 million grant to build what is now the largest on-farm anaerobic digestion project in the state.

Schumer noted that there are several other projects in development across the state that could more easily begin construction if the Section 1603 were revived. Additionally, new proposed regulations in the state  will allow smaller dairy farmers to add a significant number of new cows to their herds, he said, and there is lots of interest in expanding, but costs are usually the deciding—and inhibiting— factor for whether a dairy farm will do so. About 4,455 dairy farms in New York could add at least 100 cows. according to the new regulations. 

According to a news release from Schumer’s office, there are currently 20 biodigesters across upstate New York, ranging in size from digesters supported by a herd of 350 cows to ones with 3,500 cows. “Upstate New York dairy farms must grow to meet new demands for milk and Greek yogurt, and that means one thing’s for certain: more biodigesters are key to accommodating the larger herds that will soon be grazing New York’s pastures,” Schumer said.  “That is why I am reviving a critical federal grant program that has proven instrumental in jump-starting the construction of biodigesters across the country that will not only process the food and animal waste from expanding yogurt production, but also create new renewable energy for farms and local communities. New York must focus on developing more biodigesters to parallel growth in herds, in light of the planned new CAFO regulations.”