Tag Archives: USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack

Ducheneaux hopes for 27 million CRP acres, praises White House initiative

The Hagstrom Report, The Fence Post

Zach Ducheneaux, administrator of the Agriculture Department’s Farm Service Agency, told The Hagstrom Report today, May 3, that he still hopes the Conservation Reserve Program will grow to 27 million acres by 2023, the maximum allowed by Congress under the 2018 farm bill, even though the current statistics on the program make that goal look difficult. The issue is important because the Biden administration has said that land in the CRP sequesters carbon, helping American agriculture contribute to efforts to mitigate climate change.

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced today that USDA has accepted 2 million acres into the CRP program, but he also noted that producers submitted re-enrollment offers for just over half of the 3.4 million acres expiring this year and offered only 400,000 acres of new land, compared with 700,000 new acres last year. Read more here.

The Grassland Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) signup deadline is May 13, 2022.

Questions? Email Zach Ducheneaux: zachducheneaux@usda.gov or call (202) 941-4675.

USDA News Release, May 3, 2022: USDA Accepts 2 Million Acres in Offers Through Conservation Reserve Program General Signup

‘Build Back Better’ Hit a Wall, but Climate Action Could Move Forward

By Coral Davenport and Lisa Friedman, New York Times

The climate portion of Build Back Better includes about $555 billion aimed at moving the American economy away from its 150-year-old reliance on fossil fuels and toward clean energy sources. Instead of penalties to punish polluters, the bill offers incentives for industries, utilities and individuals to shift from burning oil, gas and coal for energy and transportation to using wind, solar and other forms of power that do not emit carbon dioxide, the most plentiful of the greenhouse gases that are warming the world.

It would provide about $320 billion in tax credits for producers and buyers of wind, solar and nuclear power. Buyers of electric vehicles would receive up to $12,500 in tax credits. It would extend existing tax credits to lower costs for homeowners of installing solar panels, geothermal pumps and small wind turbines, covering up to 30 percent of the bills. Read more here.

APPA FACT SHEET OF POTENTIAL INTEREST

The Need for Direct Payment Of Refundable Tax Credits for Public Power

APPA believes that if Congress intends to create incentives in pursuit of national energy and climate goals, it should realize that tax-based incentives will not have the market-wide reach of direct grants and other incentives. As a result, the association believes that tax-based incentives should be drafted to accommodate tax-exempt entities, including public power utilities. 

UTILITY DIVE SERIES

2022 Outlook: FERC expected to prioritize transmission, power markets and gas infrastructure, by Ethan Howland, Senior Reporter

This is the third part of Utility Dive’s 2022 Outlook Series.

With its oversight of interstate transmission and wholesale power markets, FERC, an independent agency, has a major role in the energy transition. “FERC’s regulation is central to the resilient, reliable future grid that’s already developing,” John Moore, director of the Sustainable FERC Project at the Natural Resources Defense Council, said.

Potential changes to the transmission system are driven by the growth of renewable energy, especially in areas that are far from major population centers, according to Moore. Other developments that are driving a focus on transmission planning include the development of offshore wind farms and the shift away from fossil fuels for cars, trucks and buildings, which will drive up electricity use, Moore said.

Referenced in the article: FERC’s new Office of Public Participation
Upcoming Resources for the Future Webinar: Policy Leadership Series with FERC Commissioner Allison Clements, January 25, 2022 at 10 a.m. Central Time


Fourth Part of Utility Dive’s 2022 Series 

2022 Outlook: US solar and wind boom continues despite supply chain woes, Build Back Better uncertainty,  by Iulia Gheorghiu

 

INTERIOR DEPARTMENT NEWS

Interior’s 2022 energy strategy: 3 things to watch, E&E News

Interior’s efforts will include authorizing solar energy in Western deserts and leasing waters in the Atlantic Ocean to offshore wind developers, as well as reexamining the rules that govern decommissioning offshore pipelines, drilling for oil and digging for federal coal . . . Meanwhile, renewables are about to get a boost on public lands.

Additional Recommended Reading: Offshore wind: a key to unlocking the American transition to a clean, reliable and affordable energy future, American Clean Power Association

USDA NEWS RELEASES

USDA’s Office of Tribal Relations Highlights 2021 Accomplishments to Advance Equity and Opportunity for Tribal Nations and Communities

“USDA and the federal government have a distinct relationship with tribal nations,” said USDA Office of Tribal Relations Director Heather Dawn Thompson. “We are embarking on new initiatives to reframe approaches to how USDA serves Indian Country and promotes government-to-government relationships with tribal nations.” 

MIDAMERICAN ENERGY NEWS RELEASE

MidAmerican Energy proposes $3.9 billion “Wind PRIME” renewable energy project

In a filing with the Iowa Utilities Board, MidAmerican’s proposed project, called Wind PRIME, would add 2,042 megawatts of wind generation and 50 megawatts of solar generation. The company also proposed conducting feasibility studies focused on other clean generation technologies, including carbon capture, energy storage and small modular nuclear reactors.

FEATURED EDUCATIONAL ORGANIZATION

The Zero Energy Project is a non-profit educational organization whose goal is to help home buyers, builders, designers, and real estate professionals take meaningful steps towards radically reducing carbon emissions and energy bills by building zero net energy homes and near zero energy homes.

We envision the day when positive energy homes, which produce more energy than they consume, will power electric vehicles as well as homes, so that everyone can live well with less expense and without fear of energy price spikes, while greatly reducing our carbon emissions.

Zero Energy Project’s Directory of Zero Energy Building Professionals
Recent Blog Post: Net-Zero vs Passive House: What are the Similarities and Differences?

DOE BETTER BUILDINGS WEBINAR

PV Valuation: How Solar PV Adds Value to Your Assets, February 1, 2022, 10 a.m. CT

Rooftop solar is a common renewable energy strategy, and owners and operators are now exploring potential financial benefits to the value of commercial and industrial properties. Learn from several building owners and managers on how they made the business case for solar PV and found increased asset value during appraisal or at the time of sale. This webinar will highlight multiple building types and financial models for solar PV.

USDA Launches Pilot Program to Deploy Renewable Energy Infrastructure to People in Rural Towns

USDA News Release

WASHINGTON, D.C., Jan. 19, 2022 – U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Secretary Tom Vilsack today announced that the Department is making up to $10 million available to help people living in rural towns develop community renewable energy projects that will help them cut their energy costs and contribute to the nationwide effort to reduce pollution that contributes to climate change. These funds will be targeted to help people who live in communities that have been historically underinvested and disinvested.

USDA is making the funds available through the new Rural Energy Pilot Program to help the people of rural America build back better, stronger and more equitably than ever before. Through this program, USDA is supporting the Biden-Harris Administration’s commitment to making environmental justice a part of every agency’s mission to address the disproportionate health, environmental, economic and climate impacts on disadvantaged communities. Read more here.

Additional Recommended Reading

U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack Highlights Key Work in 2021 to Combat Climate Change, USDA News Release, January 18, 2022

“Climate change threatens our food security, safety, and the environment we all depend on, but USDA is taking action to respond,” said Vilsack. “Working closely alongside our partners and those we serve, we are conserving precious natural resources, supporting climate smart forestry and agriculture, helping agricultural producers make their operations more climate friendly and resilient to climate change, and protecting communities from wildfire.”

USDA Resource: Climate Solutions

USDA Invests $5.2 Billion to Build and Improve Critical Rural Infrastructure in 46 States and Puerto Rico

USDA News Release, December 16, 2021

U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Secretary Tom Vilsack today announced that USDA is investing $5.2 billion to build and improve critical rural infrastructure in 46 states and Puerto Rico. The investments reflect the Biden-Harris Administration’s commitment to Building a Better America by investing in rural communities and will help expand access to high-speed internet, clean water and reliable electricity in people’s homes and businesses across rural America. Read more here.

Water & Environmental Programs
USDA investments in Nebraska by types and amounts:

Village of Mason City – Loans: $537,000 / Grants: $482,000
Village of Page – Grants: $82,000
Village of Whitney – Loans: $203,000 / Grants: $432,000

Electric Loans Total: $4,064,469,000
Just one example of USDA’s investments in this infrastructure category: $550 million to the National Rural Utilities Cooperative Finance Corporation, a nonprofit created and owned by a network of rural electric cooperatives, with 1,000 member owners across 49 states. Headquartered in the State of Virginia.

ADDITIONAL RECOMMENDED READING

The roundtable focused on new private sector and philanthropic investments that have been spurred by the Administration’s efforts to support economic revitalization in energy communities. The roundtable also discussed the announcement of initial awards from the Department of Commerce’s Economic Development Administration (EDA) $300 million Coal Communities Commitment to support economic revitalization, infrastructure investments, and quality jobs in coal communities with funding from the American Rescue Plan.

“Weatherization retrofits and home energy upgrades – like heat pumps, LED lighting, insulation and sealing up leaks — cuts monthly energy bills for families by up to 30%, and makes our air healthier,” said Secretary of Energy Jennifer M. Granholm. “Thanks to the investments in the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, DOE will be able to help even more communities, cut more air pollution, and generate good-paying local jobs.” For more information about this effort, visit the Weather Assistance Program website.

Previously Posted

Business leader Tim Burke calls criticism of UNL diversity plan ‘harmful’ to state

By David Earl, KETV Omaha

“It is a talent-related issue,” Burke said, noting Nebraska is experiencing a talent crisis.
He said there just aren’t enough people to keep the state growing.


Tim Burke knows a thing or two about leadership, Over the last two years, the now-retired Omaha Public Power District executive has tackled challenges like helping customers in 13 counties navigate a pandemic, working around the clock as extreme cold threatened the power grid and helping the Greater Omaha Chamber of Commerce chart an economic recovery. He retired July 1 from his position as CEO of OPPD.

Read the entire transcript or watch the video here.


ADDITIONAL RECOMMENDED READING 

Photo Credit: OPPD

LINKS TO MORE WORKFORCE INFORMATION

RURAL FELLOWSHIP PROGRAM

Rural Fellowship program announces funding, scholarships, by Russell Shaffer | Rural Prosperity NebraskaUNL News

The Rural Fellowship program is currently accepting applications for host communities for 2022. A live webinar for interested communities will be at 10 a.m. Dec. 13. Registration is available here. The webinar can also be accessed via Zoom here. Additional details can be found here.

Rural Prosperity Nebraska Website
2021 Nebraska Rural Poll

USDA NEWS RELEASE

USDA Invests $633 Million in Climate-Smart and Resilient Infrastructure for People in Rural Communities, USDA News Release

SHREWSBURY, Pa., Dec. 03, 2021 – United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Secretary Tom Vilsack today announced the Department is investing $633 million to reduce the impacts of climate change (PDF, 394 KB) on rural communities. With the enactment of the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law and as part of the broader Build Back Better agenda, the Biden-Harris Administration has made investing in rural communities, creating good-paying jobs and combatting the climate crisis top priorities.
Nebraska loans and grants are listed under the Climate Change Bundle Chart on pages 37 & 38 in the above PDF.

Groundbreaking held for York’s new solar power generation field

By Melanie Wilkinson, York News-Times

YORK – It was quite fitting that the sun was brilliantly shining and there were near-record high temperatures as gold shovels were used to turn dirt during a groundbreaking ceremony for the new solar energy generation field at York. The location is on unused ground on the landfill property.

A number of people were on hand to mark the beginning of this project – a project that has been in the works since 2019 when the Nebraska Public Power District (NPPD) and the City of York began working together toward this end goal. Continue reading here.

SITING SOLAR ON LANDFILLS & OTHER BROWNFIELDS

Links to Resources

  • RE-Powering America’s Land
    RE-Powering America’s Land is an EPA initiative that encourages renewable energy development on current and formerly contaminated lands, landfills, and mine sites when such development is aligned with the community’s vision for the site.
  • EPA’s Brownfields Program provides grants and technical assistance to communities, states, tribes and others to assess, safely clean up and sustainably reuse contaminated properties. To learn about EPA’s broader efforts to put previously contaminated properties back into productive use, read about the Land Revitalization Program.
  • Brownfields and Land Revitalization in Region 7
    EPA Region 7 manages  Brownfields and Land Revitalization Programs in Iowa, Kansas, Nebraska and Missouri. On this page you will find information specific to Region 7’s Brownfields and Land Revitalization activities. Visit the national Brownfields Program and Land Revitalization Program websites for more information about these programs’ competitive grants.
  • Brownfields: FAQs, Nebraska Department of Environment and Energy 

USDA NEWS RELEASE


USDA Announces $3 Billion Investment in Agriculture, Animal Health, and Nutrition; Unveils New Climate Partnership Initiative, Requests Public Input

 


“The new Climate-Smart Agriculture and Forestry Partnership Initiative will support pilots that create new market opportunities for commodities produced using climate-smart practices and position U.S. farmers, ranchers, and forest landowners as leaders in addressing climate change. The pilots will invest in the science, monitoring and verification to measure the benefits of these climate smart practices. Today, we ask for public input to inform our decision making and enhance the design of this initiative.”
– Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack

Comments may be provided on or before 11:59 p.m. EST on November 1, 2021 via the Federal Register, Docket ID: USDA-2021-0010. Feedback will be used to inform design of the new Climate-Smart Agriculture and Forestry Partnership Initiative. 

ADDITIONAL RECOMMENDED READING 

FACA consists of 80 organizations representing farmers, ranchers, forest owners, agribusinesses, manufacturers, the food and innovation sector, state governments, sportsmen and women, and environmental advocates. More information and a full list of members can be found at www.AgClimateAlliance.com. FACA’s original 40 recommendations are outlined in a 50-page report and summarized in a one-page hand-out.

RURAL ENERGY FOR AMERICA PROGRAM

REAP provides funding for rural America’s clean energy efforts,  Standard Journal

Contributed article by Kalee Olson,  a policy associate at the Center for Rural Affairs. Established in 1973, the Center for Rural Affairs is a private, nonprofit organization working to strengthen small businesses, family farms and ranches, and rural communities through action-oriented programs addressing social, economic, and environmental issues. The deadline to apply is Nov. 1.

80% Clean Electricity Payment Program = Enormous Job Growth

By Arjun Krishnaswam, Natural Resources Defense Council

A clean energy policy like the one under consideration in Congress right now could expand the workforce by nearly 8 million jobs and generate $1 trillion in economic benefits over the next 10 years. New analysis released today demonstrates that a well-designed Clean Electricity Payment Program (CEPP) will support a strong clean energy economy, and is vital to addressing the climate crisis. Continue reading here.

CIVILIAN CLIMATE CORPS

Invest in a robust civilian climate corps to build our resiliency — our lives depend on it, The Hill

Contributors: Joe Neguse represents Colorado’s 2nd District in Congress and serves as chair of the U.S. Subcommittee on National Parks, Forests and Public Lands. Mary Ellen Sprenkel is the president and CEO of The Corps Network, the National Association of Service and Conservation Corps.

GOOD NEWS FROM KIT CARSON ELECTRIC COOPERATIVE

5 things I learned from exiting my G&T power provider, and the 300 things I’ve gained 

Utility Dive article contributed by Luis A. Reyes Jr.,
CEO of Kit Carson Electric Cooperative

We have about 11 months left of exit fee repayments. After that, we’ll have some of the lowest wholesale power rates in the country. We are generating our own solar power locally, with batteries to store it. Now we’ve set a new, bolder goal to make KCEC 100% carbon-free by 2030. I know we’ll get there. Meanwhile, I see too many other cooperatives struggling without the ability to make their own power supply choices.

Previously Posted:
 Tri-State asks FERC to approve ‘transparent and simpler’ contract termination approach for members, Utility Dive. The member cooperatives include Wheat Belt Public Power and Northwest Rural Public Power in Nebraska.

USDA NEWS RELEASE

USDA Invests $464 Million in Renewable Energy Infrastructure to Help Rural Communities, Businesses and Ag Producers Build Back Better

U.S. Department of Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack today announced that the Department is investing $464 million to build or improve renewable energy infrastructure and to help rural communities, agricultural producers and businesses lower energy costs in 48 states and Puerto Rico. 

USDA is financing $129 million of these investments through the Rural Energy for America Program and $335 million through the Electric Loan Program.

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.