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NMSU to participate in virtual Renewable Energy Education Day, Oct. 26

Agricultural producers in the Southwest are invited to participate in a Renewable Energy Education Day webinar, Oct. 26, where New Mexico State University experts will join forces with multi-state specialists to discuss the technical, environmental and economic factors involved in the use of anaerobic digestion systems on livestock operations. The free program is specifically targeted to the Southwest, where dry climatic conditions present technical challenges to digester operations.

Anaerobic digestion is the natural process performed by microbes in the absence of atmospheric oxygen to break down organic matter into simpler molecules. It can be used as a source of renewable energy.

"This is a great opportunity for dairy producers in the Southwest to call attention to the fact that making this work - economically - is going to take more than what has been done so far, and that the conditions of the Southwest are different than those in the Northeast," said Robert Hagevoort, NMSU's Extension dairy specialist in Clovis. "If policymakers understand that and regulators keep that in mind, maybe they will find ways to facilitate the research and development we need to do in order to get projects underway that make sense."

This virtual field day targets dairy and beef producers in New Mexico, Arizona, California, Colorado, Kansas, Oklahoma and Texas. The program will provide information that producers can use in deciding whether to incorporate an anaerobic digester into their operation. Representatives of environmental and agricultural organizations working with livestock producers, as well as staff from state and federal agencies, are also encouraged to participate.

Farm Foundation, NFP is organizing this webinar in collaboration with the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Rural Development, Office of Energy Policy and New Uses, and Natural Resources Conservation Service.

Speakers include livestock producers with experience in operating an anaerobic digester, industry leaders working with various technologies used in anaerobic digestion, university researchers, the Innovation Center for U.S. Dairy and representatives from government agencies, including USDA and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's AgStar program.
Session topics include: producer experiences with anaerobic digester systems, digesting manure under dry climate conditions, using a digester to manage livestock manure/nutrient issues, potential revenue streams from an integrated digester system, financing options for installing an anaerobic digester, and next steps to begin integrating a digester in a livestock operation.

"My role in the webinar is to wrap up what has been said during the day into a package we can move forward with," Hagevoort said. "I will discuss opportunities and challenges for further development of technologies in the Southwest and how we can utilize the Southern Great Plains Dairy Consortium as a collaborative, multi-state, multi-university, multi-disciplinary tool to develop economically viable solutions for manure-to-energy conversion and other tailored technologies to create economic returns to a costly process while solving environmental challenges."

Dean Lowell Catlett, of NMSU's College of Agricultural, Consumer and Environmental Sciences, will provide welcome remarks.

New Mexico Sen. Jeff Bingaman and U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack will open the field day with videotaped remarks. Bingaman, who chairs the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, will discuss renewable energy options in the Southwest. Secretary Vilsack will discuss the USDA's focus on digesters and eco-services markets.

Participants can view the webinar by joining the audience at the webinar's site of origin, the New Mexico Farm and Ranch Heritage Museum at 4100 Dripping Springs Road in Las Cruces. Viewing sites will also be set up at Lamar Community College Equine Center, Lamar, Colo.; the Otero County Extension Office, Rocky Ford, Colo.; Arizona State University, Polytechnic Campus, Mesa, Ariz.; the U.S. EPA Region 9 Office, San Francisco, Calif.; the Texas AgriLife Research and Extension Center, Amarillo, Texas; the Southwest Regional Dairy Center, Stephenville, Texas; the Grady County Extension Office, Chickasha, Okla.; and the USDA Whitten Building, Room 107A, Washington, D.C. The event can also be viewed from an office or home computer.

Webinar sessions are from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. MDT. The sessions are being recorded and will be available for viewing for one year after the event. Registration is required to participate. To register for the webinar and to view an agenda, visit the Farm Foundation, NFP Web site, www.farmfoundation.org.

For more information on the webinar, contact Hagevoort at 575-985-2292 or dairydoc@nmsu.edu.