Category Archives: Regenerative Farming

Iowa experiment tests potential to pair solar with carbon sequestration

By Karen Uhlenhuth, Energy News Network

As thousands of acres of Iowa farmland are eyed as possible sites for solar farms, a research project is getting underway to explore a new crop that could co-exist with this burgeoning source of power: carbon sequestration. The state’s economic development office last month awarded $297,000 to an environmental consultant to create a business model “for monetizing carbon capture on solar energy farms.” Continue reading here.

Iowa Carbon Sequestration Task Force

Related Reading & EPA Resources
Perry joins Alliant Energy in brownfield solar power project, The Perry News
RE-Powering America’s Land, Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Brownfield Resources

Photo Credit: Werner Slocum / NREL

ALSO IN THE NEWS

SEIA NEWS RELEASE

Nearly 750 U.S. Solar Companies Unite for Long-Term Federal Policy Certainty
WASHINGTON, D.C. — Nearly 750 companies from across the U.S. solar supply chain sent a letter to Congress today urging action on policies that drive clean energy deployment and help us tackle the climate crisis.

The letter is part of a national campaign led by the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA) in support of transformative solar and clean energy policies in upcoming federal infrastructure legislation. The solar industry is calling for a long-term extension of the solar Investment Tax Credit (ITC) along with a direct pay provision, which will ease project financing challenges and shield the industry from pandemic-related disruptions. For more information about the solar industry’s infrastructure priorities, visit www.seia.org/infrastructure.

NEW CERES REPORT

new report released by the Ceres Accelerator for Sustainable Capital Markets reveals that the physical impacts of climate change could amount to more than a $250 billion risk annually for the largest U.S. banks.

The Ceres Accelerator report, Financing a Net Zero Economy: The Consequences of Physical Climate Risk for Banks highlights these risks and provides valuable insights to help banks realize and mitigate the systemic financial implications of physical risk. The report sets out a practical roadmap to help banks conduct risk assessments and incorporate climate risks into their day-to-day decision-making. It includes detailed recommendations across four broad categories to guide the banking industry in fully measuring, analyzing, and acting against threats posed by the physical risks of climate change.

join Ceres for a webinar on Tuesday, September 14th to discuss the report findings and recommendations with a former Senior Deputy Comptroller of the Currency and the Head of Financial Risk at Regions Bank.

Related Post: An Urgent Call To High-Emitting Sectors: It’s Time For Climate Action
Forbes
article contributed by Mindy Lubber, CEO & President of Ceres, with additional resources provided by Nebraskans for Solar.

What to know about conservation compliance

By Erin Herbold-Swalwell, Farm Progress

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, in his address at the 2021 Commodity Classic, said that work on “climate-smart ag” should begin before the next farm bill. Proposed increases in funding of the Conservation Reserve Program and an increased emphasis on carbon credits and carbon banks, renewable energy, and other environmental matters bring different opportunities for farm families, but also remind us that we need to understand the rules of enrollment in USDA programs. Read more here.

USDA Conservation Programs

The USDA offers voluntary, incentive-based conservation opportunities to landowners through local field offices in nearly every county of the nation. USDA helped landowners develop conservation plans and enrolled a record number of acres of private working lands in conservation programs, working with more than 500,000 farmers and ranchers to implement conservation practices that clean the air we breathe, conserve and clean the water we drink, prevent soil erosion and create and protect wildlife habitat. USDA support – leveraged with historic outside investments – helped support producer incomes and reward them for their good work.

USDA Resources

Nebraska News

Farmers express interest in possible carbon reduction methods, by Jerry Guenther, Norfolk Daily News

More USDA Resources

Center for Agricultural Profitability

The interdisciplinary Center for Agricultural Profitabilitywhich was approved March 11, 2021, facilitates faculty research, conducts outreach related to agricultural profitability and trains undergraduate and graduate students — all to support informed decision-making in agriculture through applied research and education.

Center for Agricultural Profitability Webinars – Archived & Upcoming

How farmers can step up to fight climate change

Opinion Contributed by Stephanie Mercier and John Reilly, The Hill

In his first seven months in office, President Biden has made clear his intention to treat climate change as a serious threat to both the country and the world, and recently set a goal to reduce U.S. greenhouse gas emissions by at least half by the year 2030.  

U.S. farmers have the opportunity to participate proactively in reducing the threat of climate change through a number of efforts, such as sequestering carbon in soils by using conserving agricultural practices, reducing or capturing methane emissions from livestock, taking steps to more efficiently use nitrogen fertilizer to reduce nitrous oxide emissions, reducing emissions by improving their energy efficiency on-farm, and contributing to renewable energy production. Continue reading here.

About the Writers: Dr. Stephanie Mercier is an economist and senior policy adviser with Farm Journal Foundation. Dr. John Reilly is co-director emeritus at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Joint Program on the Science and Policy of Global Change.

Referenced Resources Include:

About The Farm Journal Foundation
The Farm Journal Foundation is a nonprofit organization dedicated to achieving global food security by sustaining modern agriculture’s leadership role and ability to meet the vital needs of a growing population. The organization works to advance this mission through key issue areas, including global food security, agricultural research and development, nutrition, and conservation agriculture.

About the MIT Joint Program on the Science and Policy of Global Change
The MIT Joint Program is working to advance a sustainable, prosperous world through scientific analysis of the complex interactions among co-evolving global systems. To help nations, regions, cities and the public and private sectors confront critical challenges in future food, water, energy, climate and other areas, the Program’s integrated team of natural and social scientists produces comprehensive global and regional change projections under different environmental, economic and policy scenarios. These projections help decision-makers to assess impacts and costs/benefits of potential courses of action.

Photo: The Deblauw Family Farm in Hartington, Nebraska,. Their 10.4-kilowatt photovoltaic system supplies owners Marvin and Debra Deblauw with about 80% of the farm’s energy needs. Installers: MarLin Wind & Solar and North Star Solar Bears

City gives nod to solar

By Suzi Nelson, Wahoo Newspaper

On July 27, the Wahoo City Council authorized the mayor to sign a letter of intent for a 2-megawatt solar plant on 10 acres on the east side of Wahoo. The project was approved unanimously by the Wahoo Board of Public Works on July 21, according to Ryan Hurst, general manager for Wahoo Utilities, the city-owned utility department. Hurst said Nebraska Public Power District, the entity from which Wahoo Utilities purchases electricity that is not generated by the local power plant, allows communities to use up to 10% or 2 megawatts of renewable power. Continue reading here.

To read more about NPPD’s limit on renewable energy, click here and scroll down to “South Sioux City” and “NPPD’s Wholesale Power Contracts”.

See Also: Council hears rate study for proposed electric rate changes, Beatrice Daily Sun, posted yesterday.

NPPD NEWS RELEASES

  • Information forums on decarbonization scheduled by NPPD
    NPPD’s Board of Directors is seeking to better understand their constituents’ opinions in three areas: 1) the risks associated with being a carbon emitting utility; 2) what NPPD’s carbon reduction goal should be; and 3) what principles (cost, environmental, reliability, resilience) are most important to customers  as NPPD works to reduce its carbon emissions.
  • NPPD hosting SunWise community solar open house Aug. 10
    GRNE Solar, based out of Lincoln, Neb., is the solar developer for the 500-kilowatt project. GRNE will sell electricity generated by the solar facility to NPPD, and NPPD will resell this energy to Ainsworth solar subscribers at cost. NPPD already has existing solar facilities operating in Kearney, Scottsbluff and Venango amounting to approximately 10.5 megawatts in size.

ALSO OF POTENTIAL INTEREST

In her article, Suzi Nelson references OPPD’s 81 MW solar project in Saunders County, named Platteview Solar.

The Saunders County Board of Supervisors voted 6-0 to approve the Conditional Use Permit for the 81 MW Platteview Solar Project. See: Saunders County approves solar farm construction near Yutan, Associated Press

More About Platteview Solar – Community Energy

In April 2021, Omaha Public Power District (OPPD) and Community Energy (CE) announced a Power Purchase Agreement for Platteview Solar, an 81 megawatt (MW) utility-scale solar photovoltaic installation with a proposed location just south of Hwy 92 near Yutan in eastern Saunders County.

The project site consists of approximately 500 total leased acres, spanning several clusters of land with a flat, gently rolling topography. This announcement supports OPPD’s Power with Purpose initiative. The official project announcement is on OPPD’s The Wire. OPPD is the lone customer for Platteview Solar’s energy, providing long-term stability and support.

Platteview Solar Project FAQS – Community Energy

Among the questions, the following is one that often comes up in discussions about utility-scale solar projects: 

Doesn’t solar take good agricultural ground out of production?

Not in a meaningful way. Saunders County is 486,400 acres of ground.  The proposed project would impact approximately 500 acres. 

Farm ground used for solar projects does not necessarily mean the end of agricultural use on the land.  It will be different than traditional crops, but a robust pollinator program can benefit not only the project properties, but cropland, orchards, residential gardens, trees and other landscaping within 30 miles of the project site. Additionally, the traditional agricultural nature of the property is not permanently lost. The benefits of restorative vegetation on nitrogen and CO2 depleted land improves agricultural land for the future. Solar projects are a long term, but temporary, use of agricultural land that allows landowners to diversify their assets, creating financial stability and allowing agricultural land to remain in families for future generations.

Previously Posted Research

Beneath Solar Panels, the Seeds of Opportunity SproutNational Renewable Energy Laboratory 

“It doesn’t have to be an either-or choice. For all our agriculturally productive land, let’s help PV developers and farmers plan out these solar projects so that farmers can get under the arrays and continue to work the land for the next 20 or 30 years.” —Gerry Palano, energy program coordinator, Massachusetts Department of Agriculture

Landmark Growing Climate Solutions Act clears Senate

By Jacqui Fatka, Farm Progress

The Growing Climate Solutions Act passed by a vote of 92-8 on the full Senate floor on Thursday. The act has 55 cosponsors, which makes it the first major piece of bipartisan legislation that would help farmers, ranchers and forest landowners reduce greenhouse gas emissions and build climate resilience through voluntary, market-driven programs.

“Addressing the climate crisis is one of the most urgent challenges we face, and our farmers and foresters are an important part of the solution,” says Senate Agriculture Committee Chairwoman Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich. “The bipartisan Growing Climate Solutions Act is a win-win for farmers, our economy and for our environment. Our bill is a perfect example of how we can work across the aisle and find common ground to address a critical issue affecting all of us and our future.” Continue reading here. (Scroll down).

Additional Recommended Reading

  • AgLines: Sen. Fischer cosponsors bill to help ag producers be part of climate solution, by Robert Pore, The Grand Island Independent. “Nebraska ag producers are good stewards of our land and resources,” [Senator] Fischer said. “They also want to be a part of the climate solution. I am a cosponsor of the bill the Senate passed today. It would enable farmers and ranchers to voluntarily participate in carbon markets so they can build on the great work they are already doing.” 
  • Farm Bureau Applauds Senate Passage of Growing Climate Solutions Act
    The American Farm Bureau Federation applauds the U.S. Senate for passing the Growing Climate Solutions Act.  The act has 55 cosponsors, which makes it the first major piece of bipartisan legislation that would help farmers, ranchers and forest landowners reduce greenhouse gas emissions and build climate resilience through voluntary, market-driven programs. The House is currently working on its version of the Growing Climate Solutions Act.
  • Rural Affairs applauds Senate for passing Growing Climate Solutions Act, Center for Rural Affairs News Release. “Carbon payment programs offer a financial opportunity for farmers voluntarily implementing important conservation on their farms,” said Kayla Bergman, senior policy associate for the Center. “While there has been growing excitement for these programs, we are now at a point where setting standard protocols is necessary.”
  • Senate OKs bill to certify farm practices limiting emissions, by John Flesher, AP Environmental Writer, Phys.Org. Zippy Duvall, president of the American Farm Bureau Federatioin, said lack of access to reliable information about carbon markets and a shortage of technical assistance have deterred some landowners. The bill “acknowledges the potential of climate-smart farming while ensuring farmers would be respected as partners who can build on our strong foundation of environmental stewardship,” Duvall said.
  • Carbon market faces new questions, Iowa Farmer Today
    “The market is rejuvenating,” says Shelby Myers, an economist with the American Farm Bureau. Iowa State University economist Chad Hart says the idea of carbon markets — paying farmers for their conservation practices that keep carbon in the soil — appears to be more economically sustainable now. “I think we will see something now that will stick around for a while,” he says.

Midlands Voices: Voluntary programs are the key tools to promote Nebraska conservation

By Anne Hubbard, Jim Armitage, Richard Fruehling and Ron Schaefer,
The Nature Conservancy

We are writing in support of the 30-by-30 plan for conservation of American’s land and water, also referred to as “America the Beautiful.” The Board of Trustees for The Nature Conservancy (TNC) is committed to advancing conservation practices on private lands; Nebraska is, of course, a private lands state, and to fulfill this mission, we rely on the leadership of ranchers and farmers.

Many of our staff members, trustees, families and friends work in agriculture, and as Nebraskans, none of us are far removed from the farm or the ranch. TNC proudly works alongside private landowners, landowner-led conservation associations, agribusinesses, and Tribal, state and federal partners to provide conservation tools to landowners through voluntary programs. It is this type of collaboration that ultimately leads to success. Read more here.

Dr. Anne Hubbard, board chair emeritus, and Dr. Jim Armitage, Dr. Richard Fruehling and Ron Schaefer wrote this essay on behalf of the executive committee of The Nature Conservancy’s Board of Trustees. The Nature Conservancy is a conservation organization and private landowner in Nebraska with more than 5,000 member-households.

Related Reading: Saving 30 By 2030, The Nature Conservancy 

Image Credit: The Nature Conservancy in Nebraska Facebook Photos

The Nature Conservancy In Nebraska

MORE ABOUT AMERICA THE BEAUTIFUL

America the Beautiful, U.S. Department of the Interior
As directed by President Biden’s Executive Order 14008, Tackling the Climate Crisis at Home and Abroad, the Department of the Interior has partnered with the Departments of Agriculture and Commerce, National Ocean and Atmospheric Administration, and the White House’s Council on Environmental Quality to develop initial recommendations on how to advance an inclusive and collaborative conservation vision. 

President Biden has issued a call to action that we work together to conserve, connect, and restore 30 percent of our lands and waters by 2030 for the sake of our economy, our health, and our well-being. 

To meet the moment, the Biden-Harris administration has launched “America the Beautiful,” a decade-long challenge to pursue a locally led and voluntary, nationwide effort to conserve, connect, and restore the lands, waters, and wildlife upon which we all depend. A recent report outlines the key principles that will guide our conservation efforts, including: 

America The Beautiful (PDF)

USDA’S CONSERVATION RESERVE PROGRAM

 

 

 

 

 

USDA Announces New Initiative to Quantify Climate Benefits of Conservation Reserve Program
Proposals for CRP Climate Change Mitigation Assessment Initiative Due July 2, 2021.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Farm Service Agency (FSA) has launched an initiative to quantify the climate benefits of Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) contracts. This multi-year effort will enable USDA to better target CRP toward climate outcomes and improve existing models and conservation planning tools while supporting USDA’s goal of putting American agriculture and forestry at the center of climate-smart solutions to address climate change. “CRP is a powerful tool for implementing voluntary, measurable conservation outcomes to mitigate the impacts of climate change,” said FSA Administrator Zach Ducheneaux.

Links to More Information

In April, the USDA announced updates to CRP including higher payment rates, new incentives for environmental practices and a more targeted focus on the program’s role in climate change mitigation Download USDA’s “What’s New” fact sheet to learn more about program updates.

New USDA Publication: USDA Launches Resource Guide to Help America’s Rural Workforce Build Back Better

Congressional Bills

Largest agrivoltaic research project in U.S. advances renewable energy while empowering local farmers

Case study contributed to Solar Power World by HansenRE.

The global installed capacity of agrivoltaics, or the co-development of the same area of land for both solar power and agriculture, has grown rapidly from about 5 MW in 2012 to approximately 2,900 MW in 2020. One of the largest driving factors for this growth is the need to continue to build solar projects to mitigate climate change in the face of dwindling available non-agricultural land. According to the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL), by 2030, utility-scale solar could cover almost 2 million acres of land in the United States. A recent Oregon State University study also estimates that converting just 1% of American farmland to agrivoltaics would not only meet the nation’s renewable energy targets, but also save water and create a sustainable, long-term food system. Additionally, agrivoltaics have been shown to increase crop production, solar panel efficiency as well as farmer income. Continue reading here.

Photo by Byron Kominek, owner of Jack’s Solar Garden in Boulder, Colorado: A beehive operated by Best Bees and sponsored by Google located at Jack’s Solar Garden. Best Bees installs and maintains honeybee hives on commercial and residential properties across the U.S. and seeks to improve bee health and expand bee populations.

Regenerative AG: Moving Beyond Practices

Great Plains Regeneration’s Farmer Friday Webinar
May 28th at 12pm

Featuring: Darrin Unruh of Pretty Prairie, Kansas & Tom Cannon of Blackwell, Oklahoma. The presenters will dig deep into regenerative farming practices for long-term soil health solutions like cover crop best practices and advanced use, integration of livestock into cropping systems, heirloom grain production, and new market development. Moderated by Jess Gnad, Executive Director Great Plains Regeneration.

Join here.

Wind energy company studying Jefferson County for possible wind farm

By Michael Shively, News Channel Nebraska

FAIRBURY, NE — A major renewable energy company is studying to see if Jefferson County would be a good spot for a new wind farm.The Jefferson County Commissioners voted unanimously on Tuesday to approve a special use permit for Big Blue Nebraska Wind LLC to build a meteorological tower. The tower will be built about two miles northwest of Harbine. Big Blue Nebraska Wind LLC is owned by NextEra Energy . . . Continue reading here.

Photo: NextEra Energy’s Sholes Wind Farm in Wayne County, Nebraska

NextEra’s Nebraska Projects Also Include: 

Of Potential Interest To High School Teachers & Students

 NEW REGENERATIVE AG ORGANIZATION 

Jessica Gnad“a dedicated soil health advocate with more than a decade of experience in the food, finance, and farming industries,” heads up Great Plains Regeneration, a new alliance made up of farmers, ranchers and academics from Kansas and neighboring states. The organization’s leaders also include two Nebraskans: Graham Christensen, from Oakland, who serves on the board of directors, and Trey Blackhawk, from Winnebago, a member of the advisory board. Great Plains Regeneration’s current initiatives include: farmer/rancher-led education, watershed regeneration, regional marketplace development.

Visit Great Plains Regeneration for more information.

VILSACK ADDRESSES RECENT FALSE CLAIMS ABOUT BIDEN’S CLIMATE ACTION PLANS

USDA chief Tom Vilsack says climate plans won’t involve a leaner meat diet, land seizures, Omaha World-Herald

WASHINGTON — The Biden administration will not use eminent domain to take farm or ranch property out of production to meet its climate goal of conserving 30% of U.S. land and water by 2030, nor will it try to restrict people’s meat consumption, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said Monday.

Additional Recommended Reading
USDA: 100 Days Update
Here is a summary of USDA’s work over these past 100 Days of the Biden-Harris Administration and a look at what is ahead.

Carbon market farming bill introduced in Congress

By David Murry, High Plains Journal

A bill that, if passed, would give the U.S. Department of Agriculture authority to lay the groundwork and set standards for a “carbon farming” market was introduced in Congress April 20. The U.S. Senate Ag Committee planned to take up the Growing Climate Solutions Act April 22 during a committee hearing to coincide with Earth Day.

The bill was originally introduced last June but has since been refined and reworked after input from Republicans. Its title says its purpose is “to authorize the Secretary of Agriculture to develop a program to reduce barriers to entry for farmers, ranchers, and private forest landowners in certain private markets, and for other purposes.” Read more here.

Photo Credit: USDA

Additional Recommended Reading

Featured USDA Resource

Northern Plains Climate Hub
The Northern Plains Climate Hub serves Montana, Wyoming, Colorado, Nebraska, South Dakota, and North Dakota. The Hub delivers science-based knowledge, practical information, management & conservation strategies, and decision tools to farmers, ranchers, and forest landowners with the goal of helping them adapt to weather variability and changing climatic conditions.

More Nebraska Resources

Additional National Legislation: The Agriculture Resilience Act 

Agriculture Resilience Act a Thoughtful, Nuanced Approach to Climate Action, National Farmers Union News Release

“While the window is still open, we must take every possible opportunity to adapt to our changing climate and limit its impact. One key piece of the puzzle is the agriculture sector, which can not only work to reduce its own greenhouse gas emissions, but it can also offset other sectors’ emissions by sequestering carbon in the soil – a fact that the Agriculture Resilience Act recognizes and seeks to put into action. This thoughtful and nuanced bill would strategically further climate initiatives across USDA programs in an effort to provide farmers with the tools, resources, and assistance they need to implement climate-smart practices.” – NFU President Rob Larew

National Farmers Union
National Farmers Union advocates on behalf of nearly 200,000 American farm families and their communities. We envision a world in which farm families and their communities are respected, valued, and enjoy economic prosperity and social justice.

Nebraska Farmers Union
Founded in 1913, Nebraska Farmers Union is dedicated to protecting and enhancing the quality of life and economic well-being of family farmers and ranchers, and their rural communities. As Nebraska’s second largest family farm and ranch ag organization with over 4,000 family farm and ranch families as members, Nebraska Farmers Union is dedicated to the farm income issues which matter most to rural families. With active members across the state, Farmers Union is one of Nebraska’s oldest and strongest grassroots organizations.