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Idaho dairy farmers produce more milk and cheese than almost any state in the nation. Idaho is ranked third behind California and Wisconsin.

Mitigating The Impact of Climate Change On Idaho Agriculture

Joy Pruitt
The Center for Public Integrity

Tuesday, the Northwest Climate Conference will be held in Boise. Kate Gordon is an analyst at the Paulson Institute and will speak about how climate change affects economic growth, including its impacts in Idaho.

Gordon says Idaho agriculture both contributes to, and is affected by, a changing climate. Particularly dairy, one of the state’s leading industries.

"I mean cows emit carbon. As do we," Gordon explains with a chuckle. "And methane, of course. Which is what is called a short-term climate-forcer. It’s one of the greenhouse gasses that has a shorter life span."

Gordon grew up in Wisconsin, so she understands the importance of dairy locally.

"To me," says Gordon, "this is all about economic balancing. Wisconsin and Idaho both have big dairy industries. I don’t see those industries going away any time soon. There is a market for those products. The key is going to be how do we reduce the impact of those markets."

One solution, she says, is to take advantage of new technology in mitigating methane.

"One thing that Wisconsin has been doing forever -- and Idaho has really started to doing more of -- is anaerobic digestion. Essentially turning manure into energy. It reduces the amount of emissions from the manure. It can reduce the overall impact. "

According to research published earlier this year by a team of German scientists working with the Idaho National Laboratory, 45 percent of Idaho’s dairy manure could be used to produce biomethane, a substitute for natural gas, by this process of anaerobic digestion.

Find Tom Michael on Twitter @tom2michael

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