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Federal grant to help local dairies with conservation efforts
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The U.S. Department of Agriculture awarded $1,150,000 in Conservation Innovation Grants to the Western United Dairymen and Fiscalini Farms to implement new programs and purchase equipment.  The grant is an effort to help agricultural businesses adopt new technologies to comply with federal, state, and local environmental regulations and address important natural resource concerns facing the industry. 

“California dairy producers have some of the strictest environmental regulations in the nation, and these funds will help Central Valley dairymen comply with these tough standards,” said Congressman Dennis Cardoza (D-Merced), who was instrumental in obtaining funding in the 2008 Farm Bill for the Conservation Innovation Grants program for dairy producers, farmers, and ranchers. 

“Given the economic hardship many dairy operators are facing, the timing could not be better.  This is a win-win program for our farmers and the environment, and I am proud to have supported it in Congress.”

Western United Dairymen, which represents many of California’s dairies, received a $1 million grant for groundwater monitoring.  This project will help California dairies decrease waste discharge into local water supplies by monitoring a representative portion of Central Valley dairies to determine which methods best protect water quality so the most effective new practices can be implemented.

“Western United Dairymen is grateful to the Natural Resources Conservation Service Chief Dave White and his staff, and California state conservationist Ed Burton and his team for their support and hard work on the Conservation Innovation Grant Program.  It was Congressman Cardoza’s efforts in the last farm bill to include additional resources for conservation and his tireless support of the dairy industry in his district and the state that made this grant possible.  This is the latest project in which WUD has successfully leveraged public and private investment to better assist California dairy families in complying with the toughest environmental regulations in the country,” said Tom Barcellos, first vice president of WUD and chairman of the Central Valley Dairy Regional Monitoring Program.

Fiscalini Farms, located in Modesto, received $150,000 to evaluate the performance of an enclosed aerobic manure drying system, a new and innovative way of managing dairy manure year round. 

Fiscilini’s cows are stored in free stall barns and every day the barns are flushed with water to clean off fecal matter. The resulting slurry product is collected and drained to create manure rich sludge, which is then pumped into the digester. The leftover water is re-used to again flush out the cow barns.

Other materials such as feed and lawn clippings can also be put into the tanks. The digester itself consists of two round above-ground concrete tanks. Each tank is 86 feet in diameter, 26 feet in height and holds as much as 860,000 gallons.

Sludge inside the tank is heated to 100 degrees and bacteria breaks down the manure particles in the tank to create methane. The methane is captured inside an expandable rubber bladder and piped outside of the tank where it is cooled and transferred to a combined heat and power engine, designed to burn biogas and create electricity and hot water. 

The 710 kilowatts of electricity is then sold to Modesto Irrigation District, enough to power as much as 200 homes in a nearby community. 

In addition, the hot water is used in the farm’s cheese making process. 


The Conservation Innovation Grants project will demonstrate the system’s effectiveness to improve air quality and reduce emissions.

To contact Kristina Hacker, e-mail or call 634-9141 ext. 2004.