Going Green on the Farm

An MU-directed project will help animal farmers buy efficient equipment, learn energy-saving techniques

Saving energy is a great way to reduce costs in agriculture operations. Upfront equipment expenditures or a lack of knowledge about best conversion practices can be obstacles to implementing improvements, however.

To help Missouri animal farmers go green and save money, a team made up of the University of Missouri (MU), Missouri Department of Agriculture (MDA), Missouri Department of Natural Resources (MDNR), the Missouri Agricultural and Small Business Development Authority (MASBDA), and EnSave, Inc., will partner to provide energy audits, loans, interest buy downs, rebates and grants to retrofit energy-saving equipment.

MDA will lead the overall project. Leon Schumacher, professor of agricultural systems management at the MU College of Agriculture, Food and Natural Resources, will lead the implementation of the three-year program. He will partner with University of Missouri Extension and the MU College of Engineering.

Leon SchumacherLeon Schumacher

The project is called MAESTRO, for the Missouri Agricultural Energy Savings Team, A Revolutionary Opportunity. Its goal is to strengthen the financial viability and environmental soundness of the state’s small animal farms by helping them identify and purchase energy-efficient technologies.

The target population is the approximately 2,365 small animal farm operations in Missouri. Many of these farm operations are already looking for ways to increase their energy efficiency and need help with securing financing for these projects, Schumacher said.

“All of these operations can benefit from energy savings,” he continued. “Providing swine, poultry and dairy farmers the ways to significantly reduce their energy usage will improve their finances and help them keep them on the job.”

This project is funded through a $5 million U.S. Department of Energy Energy Efficiency and Conservation block grant.

This energy-friendly equipment could include energy-efficient lighting, modern heating and cooling equipment, and improved animal waste treatment facilities, Schumacher said.

Schumacher’s preliminary estimate of per-farm savings is between $500 and $600 per month after the energy saving devices are installed. He said the equipment will also reduce annual fossil fuel emissions.

Schumacher said that Missouri’s small farmers have been facing increased costs and are financially struggling in a declining economy. “Last year, Missouri lost approximately 25 percent of its small dairy farmers – and similar numbers of swine and poultry farms – and the coming years are likely to be as difficult,” Schumacher said.

The project will target farmers too small to require a confined feeding operation, that mandates extensive effluent disposal requirements, and who make more than $50,000 in annual farm revenues.  Schumacher said that these farmers would benefit most from an energy retrofit program.

Schumacher thinks the type of energy solutions will vary with the size and type of farm operation involved. In some cases, he said, the best approach will be switching to more energy efficient light sources or heat pumps.

The project will also stimulate the state’s economy by creating at least 432 new jobs, Schumacher said. These people will conduct the energy audits and coordinate equipment purchases.

EnSave, a private company that designs and implements agricultural energy efficiency programs, will help market the program, provide training to field specialists and coordinate the energy audits.

MU Extension and MDNR will implement the education parts of the project.

The Missouri Agriculture and Small Business Development Authority will manage a revolving loan and rebate program to fund the recommended energy changes.

Schumacher said that the program will provide energy audit rebates of up to $500 per farm and $250 per farm residence. Loans will not exceed $50,000.