Tag Archives: U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA)

Climate Bill Would Expand USDA Stewardship Program

By Chuck Abbott, Successful Farming

The USDA would double the size of the Conservation Reserve, the government’s largest land-idling program, as part of supporting land stewardship on 100 million acres of farmland under companion bills filed in the House and Senate on Monday. Democrats Sen. Cory Booker and Rep. Abigail Spanberger, the sponsors, compared the legislation to New Deal programs to help farmers and combat soil loss during the Dust Bowl.

“The Climate Stewardship Act is a critical investment to seriously engage farmers, ranchers, and rural communities as part of the solution to climate change,” said Booker, who filed a version of the bill in 2019. Spanberger, who chairs the House Agriculture subcommittee on conservation, said she was “committed to finding new ways to both protect the health of our soil and benefit farmers’ bottom lines.” Continue reading here.

The Climate Stewardship Act (PDF)

Sec.108 Rural Energy for America Program

  • Increases funding from $50M to $3 billion per year to provide grants and loan guarantees for tens of thousands of farmers, ranchers and rural businesses to expand renewable energy production and make energy efficiency improvements.
  • Gives funding priority to solar projects that include pollinator habitat.
  • Sets aside 5% of the additional funding for socially disadvantaged farmers and ranchers.
  • Sets aside 5% of the funding for new and beginning farmers and ranchers.

USDA Agency Launches New Site for Science-Minded Students, USDA News Release

AgLab, a new science-education website operated by USDA’s Agricultural Research Service, is now “open for business” to students and educators alike. 

Geared toward K-12 students with an interest in food and science, AgLab offers a variety of content to promote a greater understanding of how agricultural research is helping meet the food, fiber, feed and fuel needs of a growing world population while also safeguarding our environment and natural resources.

Statement by Secretary Vilsack on the President’s FY22 Discretionary Funding Request

USDA News Release

WASHINGTON, April 9, 2021 — The Biden-Harris Administration today submitted to Congress the President’s priorities for fiscal year 2022 discretionary spending. The funding request invests in the core foundations of our country’s strength and advances key U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) priorities, including economic development and growth in rural America, maintaining support for American agriculture, rebuilding scientific expertise in our agencies, aiding in an all-of-government approach to mitigate and adapt to climate change, and supporting a strong safety net to address hunger and nutrition insecurity. Continue reading here.

Download the FY22 budget summary here.

Related Reading: How a new infrastructure package could impact Rural America, Agweek article by Sara Wyant, President and founder of Agri-Pulse Communications Inc.

Vilsack Brings To-Do List As He Starts New Stint As Agriculture Secretary

By Chuck Abbott, Successful Farming


Boosted by a landslide confirmation vote in the Senate, Tom Vilsack will begin his second stint as agriculture secretary on Wednesday facing problems from the pandemic and climate change to rising hunger rates in America. His own list of goals is much longer and each item on it is a blockbuster.

“We’re going to be a USDA that represents and serves all Americans,” said Vilsack soon after the Senate confirmed his nomination, 92-7, on Tuesday.

 Continue reading here.

Opening Statement of Thomas J. Vilsack Before the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition, and Forestry – Remarks as Prepared

Also written by Chuck Abbot: Agriculture may be ‘first and best’ place for climate gains, says Vilsack

Additional Recommended Reading

Verizon adds six PPAs for 845MW solar capacity

By Edith Hancock, PV Tech

Major telecoms provider Verizon has secured power purchase agreements (PPAs) for 845MW of solar electricity with four energy giants in the US. The PPAs with Lightsource BP, Invenergy, EDF Renewables and NextEra Energy Resources will be used to finance six solar projects which are due to be completed over the next two years. Read more here.

MORE CORPORATE RENEWABLE ENERGY PROCUREMENT NEWS 

Largest Solar Project in US Underway in Texas, Earth911
Who will purchase the energy? Corporations have already signed virtual Power Purchase Agreements (PPAs) for Samson’s solar electricity. “The Samson Solar Energy Center is the latest example of what can be achieved when companies and utilities seek an innovative partner to meet their sustainability goals and invest in a clean energy future,” said Ted Romaine, senior vice president of origination at Invenergy.

Leading U.S. Energy Buyers Support National Unity – On Clean Power, That Is, Triple Pundit
Despite a decades-long disinformation campaign by fossil stakeholders and their allies,  the latest data from Yale University’s program on
Climate Change Communication reveal a strong majority consensus on climate change and climate science, highlighted by 86 percent support for funding that supports clean power research. There is no question that business leaders are on firm ground in the area of clean power.

ENERGY STORAGE

Beyond Declining Battery Prices: Six Ways to Evaluate Energy Storage in 2021, Greentech Media
Contributed article by Aaroh Kharaya, “product manager for energy storage at Clean Energy Associates (CEA). He is a licensed Professional Engineer with nine years of experience in electrical power systems and is also a subject matter expert in battery energy storage systems.”

GREEN HYDROGEN


Nel to slash cost of electrolysers by 75%, with green hydrogen at same price as fossil H2 by 2025, Recharge

Manufacturer is building a new fully automated electrolyser factory in Norway, which will be expanded to 2GW, resulting in huge economies of scale.

Green hydrogen cost reduction, International Renewable Energy Agency
This report from the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) outlines strategies to reduce electrolyser costs through continuous innovation, performance improvements and upscaling from megawatt (MW) to multi-gigawatt (GW) levels.

Canada is set to have one of the world’s biggest green hydrogen plants, CNBC
A major green hydrogen project in Canada took another step forward with an engineering contract awarded to a subsidiary of German industrial giant Thyssenkrupp. Canada could eventually be home to a number of green hydrogen facilities. Macquarie’s Green Investment Group, for example, is part of a consortium looking to develop another major plant that would be located in British Columbia, in the west of the country. Over the last few years, major firms including RepsolSiemens EnergyOrsted and BP have gotten involved in projects connected to green hydrogen production.

BUILDING A GREEN ECONOMY & CLIMATE RESILIENCE


Carbon Markets for Farmers

Previously Posted Indianapolis Star articles by Sarah Bowman and London Gibson

  • There is a lot of money on the table with carbon markets. But farmers are skeptical.
    As more greenhouse gases enter the atmosphere and more companies pledge to go carbon neutral, interest in creating a market for carbon capture through agriculture is growing. Agriculture is now being seen by many as an untapped resource, and carbon markets the way to tap it.  “I think the potential is boundless, really,” said Mobley of The Nature Conservancy. “If it can work in Indiana, it can work anywhere in the country — politically, programmatically, with on-the-ground implementation, all of it.”
  • 5 things you need to know about what Biden’s plan for a carbon market means for farmers
    The incoming administration is proposing to create a carbon bank at the U.S. Department of Agriculture, which would buy credits from farmers and then sell them to corporations for offsets. Several other private carbon market programs have popped up, both from companies and non-profit organizations that are developing their own platforms. 

GTM’S ENERGY GANG PODCAST

 

This week on The Energy Gang: What to make of Biden’s historic, sweeping actions on climate and clean energy?

 

Bee Better Certification Program is Buzzing on U.S. Farms, Local Grocers

Posted by Jocelyn Benjamin, USDA Public Affairs Specialist in Conservation
U.S. Department of Agriculture Blog

Collaborations between farmers and USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) to create better landscapes for bees and other pollinators have been going on for several years. The recently launched Bee Better Certification program funded through the NRCS Conservation Innovations Grant program has gained interest from big names in retail.

The Bee Better Certification program certifies the use of pollinator-friendly conservation practices on farms. After the farmer is Bee Better certified, they can use the Bee Better seal on their product packaging, giving consumers the option to support farms that are supporting bees. Continue reading here.

Resources for Farmers Who Want to Create A Pollinator-Friendly Solar Site 

How-To Program For All Ages For Creating A Certified Pollinator Habitat

Nebraska Pollinator Habitat Certification Program

This program is open to Nebraska homeowners, schools, businesses, parks, homeowner associations, farmers, acreage owners and community gardens. Winter is an excellent time to begin planning a habitat. 

The Nebraska Pollinator Habitat Certification application form with complete requirements and lists of pollinator-friendly plants is available here.

USDA Helps Farmers, Businesses and Ag Producers Cut Energy Costs

USDA News Release

Acting Assistant to the Secretary for Rural Development Joel Baxley has announced that the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) is awarding 58 grants for projects in 17 states and the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico (PDF, 146 KB) to reduce energy costs for farmers, ag producers and rural-based businesses and institutions.

USDA is providing the grants through the Rural Energy for America Program (REAP). Congress appropriated $50 million for REAP grants and loan guarantees in fiscal year 2019. Under today’s announcement, USDA is investing $1 million in renewable energy projects. USDA will make additional funding announcements in coming weeks. Read the entire news release here.

INDUSTRY NEWS

SELF-COMMITTING IN POWER MARKETS

Are old Midwest coal plants pushing renewables offline?, E&E News
The utility process of self-committing or self-scheduling power plants to run even when there’s cheaper energy available on the grid is a complex issue and opaque to outsiders. Increasingly, there are questions about whether it’s slowing a transition to cleaner energy. 

The Billion-Dollar Coal Bailout Nobody Is Talking About: Self-Committing In Power Markets, 
Union of Concerned Scientists. Markets are supposed to ensure that all power plants are operated from lowest cost to most expensive. Self-committing allows expensive coal plants to cut in line, pushing out less expensive power generators such as wind, depriving those units from operating and generating revenue.

Next deadline for Rural Energy for America Program (REAP) grants is October 31st

USDA

LINCOLN, Nebraska. The next deadline for Renewable Energy for America Program (REAP) grants is October 31, 2015.  This deadline for grant applications has designated funding for small projects requesting $20,000 or less (25% of total eligible project costs). Grant requests for this round have a simplified, streamlined process and can be as low as $2,500 for renewable energy projects and $1,500 for energy efficiency projects. All agricultural producers, including farmers and ranchers, who derive 50% or more of their gross income from agricultural operations are eligible. Businesses in a rural area, meeting the Small Business Administration size standards, may also apply. A private entity, a rural utility, and rural electric cooperatives are typically eligible, however non-profit and public bodies are not eligible.

USDA Rural Development provides financial assistance in the form of grants and guaranteed loans to agricultural producers and rural small businesses to purchase renewable energy systems or make energy efficiency improvements through the REAP.  This program provides funds for the purchase and installation of renewable energy systems and to make energy-efficiency improvements.  The renewable energy projects range from installation of solar, geothermal, wind, and biomass; and energy efficiency improvements to irrigation systems, poultry houses, upgrading air conditioning, lighting and refrigeration systems.

Applications are due by 4:30 p.m. CST on October 31, 2015.  Please contact Jeff Carpenter, State Energy Coordinator at the Nebraska USDA Rural Development State Office, Suite 308, Federal Building 100 Centennial Mall North Lincoln, Nebraska 68508, call 402-437-5554 or email jeff.carpenter@ne.usda.gov.

The next funding deadline will be April 30, 2016 for projects of any size with maximum grants limited to $500,000 for renewable energy projects and $250,000 for energy efficiency projects (25% of total eligible project costs).  Any eligible applications not funded during the October 31, 2015 funding cycle will be reconsidered.

NEWS RELEASE

Nebraska incentives, grants and loans for renewables and energy efficiency- 46 programs (DSIRE). The Database of State Incentives for Renewables & Efficiency (DSIRE) is the most comprehensive source of information on incentives and policies that support renewables and energy efficiency in the United States. Established in 1995, DSIRE is operated by the N.C. Clean Energy Technology Center at N.C. State University and is funded by the U.S. Department of Energy: http://programs.dsireusa.org/system/program?state=NE

The Solar Investment Tax Credit (ITC) Fact Sheet, Solar Energy Industries Association

A Nebraska Farm’s Renewable Energy Enterprise Is Reaping Profits While Protecting Soil & Water

Danny and Josie Kluthe own the first on-farm electrical generator in Nebraska powered by manure methane. The methane is harvested from an anaerobic manure digester on their swine farm in Dodge, Nebraska to produce electricity and compressed natural gas (CNG).

Some of their homegrown, renewable energy is used for the farm. The excess, enough to power approximately 50 homes, is sold to the Nebraska Public Power District (NPPD) through the Kluthe’s alternative energy business, called OLean Energy. NPPD distributes the energy to neighboring Cuming County Public Power District.

It all started with the Kluthe’s desire to be good neighbors, to control the odor from their farm, particularly with a church nearby.  At a symposium  presented by the Nebraska Department of Environmental Quality and the Nebraska Public Power District, Danny discovered that the manure from an anaerobic digester essentially comes out odorless. “So it seemed like a perfect fit.”

The USDA and the Nebraska Environmental Trust provided grants to help fund the construction of the farm’s electrical generator. The manure methane produced by the digester is piped to the generator to power it.

“We are displacing $4-per-gallon diesel with the methane we produce here on the farm, so the payback is phenomenal. We now can make our own electricity, our own vehicle fuel and our own fuel to heat the barns. It’s nice to be energy-independent and not be at the mercy of energy costs.”

To read more about the Kluthe family and additional ways they are protecting the soil and water resources at Bacon Hill, share their story and connect with others, click on this link: http://globegazette.com/article_c46cafba-2e1a-50bc9716db629ab74df1.html#.Umktng5a4OQ.twitter

The Midwest Rural Energy Council’s website provides resources on Anaerobic Digesters and Biogas, including: Anaerobic Digester Basics, Financial Assistance & Economics of Using Anaerobic Digesters, Farmers’ Digester Experience, Organizations that Support Anaerobic Digestion Endeavors, and more: www.mrec.org/anaerobicdigestion.html

The US Environmental Protection Agency’s AgStar Program provides an online Anaerobic Digester (AD) 101 guide, answers to Frequent Questions, Fact Sheets, and additional resources at this link: www.epa.gov/agstar/anaerobic/index.html