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The first of five farm-based biogas plants that convert manure and food scraps into electricity for hundreds of homes will be dedicated in a ribbon-cutting ceremony Tuesday, May 31st at the Jordan Dairy Farm in Rutland, Massachusetts.

Governor Deval Patrick will join local farmers and other project partners to officially open the plant that helps solve several problems for the state's dairy industry: it will allow farms to better manage their manure, lower their energy and operating costs, and sell electricity to the grid to provide a new source of revenue. (One cow will create enough electricity to power a single home for a year.)

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Computer simulation studies by scientists at the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) suggests that a dairy cow living year-round in the great outdoors may leave a markedly smaller ecological hoofprint than its more sheltered sisters.

Agricultural Research Service (ARS) agricultural engineer Al Rotz led a team that evaluated how different management systems on a typical 250-acre Pennsylvania dairy farm would affect the environment. ARS is USDA's chief intramural scientific research agency, and this work supports the USDA commitment to promoting sustainable agriculture. Rotz works at the ARS Pasture Systems and Watershed Management Research Unit in University Park, Pennsylvania.

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The state Environment Department is reviewing plans to investigate soil and groundwater pollution at dairies in southeastern New Mexico. The department's groundwater quality bureau required Cheyenne II and Wild West Farms Dairies to submit plans for addressing pollution associated with their operations.

The plans could be approved within the next few weeks. Wastewater from the Dexter-area dairies is discharged to lined lagoons and is used for irrigation. Monitoring wells show nitrate, chloride and dissolved solids in the area's groundwater has exceeded state standards.

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A federal judge has sentenced Humboldt Creamery's former chief executive to 2.5 years in prison after he admitted covering up severe financial problems that bankrupted the business. The judge also ordered 50-year-old Rich Ghilarducci to pay a $7 million fine.

Ghilarducci pleaded guilty last year to a single count of loan fraud. He admitted falsely inflating the creamery's revenues between 2005 and 2008 to prevent a lender from learning of the creamery's true financial picture. The U.S. Attorney's Office says Ghilarducci ultimately defaulted on the loan, prompting the creamery to file for bankruptcy.

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The Wisconsin Legislature's budget committee has voted to stop accepting applications under a program designed to preserve Wisconsin's farms.

The Republican-controlled Joint Finance Committee voted Wednesday to essentially end the purchase of agricultural conservation easements program and $12 million in borrowing that was approved in 2009 to help fund it.

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