Tom Vilsack. (USDA photo)

U.S. Ag Secretary Tom Vilsack says universities, farmers and communities with projects that could turn agricultural waste into usable products can apply for new federal grants.

Vilsack uses the example of manure — separating the water from the solids. “Why is that important? Because we’re faced in some parts of this country with serious water shortages. We need to reclaim that water,” Vilsack said. “What do you do with what’s left? Well, you evaporate any additional moisture from that you create a pelletized fertilizer product that you put in a bag and you can sell…You eliminate the need for storage. You eliminate the smell. You create a new product. You create a new job opportunity in rural places.”

A total of 10 million dollars is set aside for this U.S.D.A. pilot program. “All of this is designed essentially to create additional revenue streams for farmers, additional job opportunities in rural places, and states like Iowa should be all over this.”

Vilsack made the announcement at a family-owned creamery in Ely that sells bottled milk, cheese curds and ice cream made from milk produced by the family’s 150 dairy cows.