Agriculture and U.S. Renewable Energy Policy

Sustainable Energy

Agriculture and national energy policy are inextricably linked. The growth of the renewable energy sector is not only an important part of creating energy independence, but represents opportunities for ranchers and farmers to add to their bottom lines. Below are some renewable energy provisions that should be a part of our national energy policy.

 

If implemented, the below policies would allow ranchers and farmers to diversify their income and cut costs, while increasing their energy efficiency:

  • Farmers helping powering American energy independence. Future federal energy policy could include provisions for a 'renewable electricity standard' that requires utilities to generate 15 percent or more of their electricity from renewable resources by 2020 and beyond. This would provide farmers with an opportunity to earn additional income by installing wind turbines, solar panels and other renewable energy technologies on their land. Land leased for a single wind turbine amounts to an estimated $3,000 a year in additional income.
  • Help reduce farmers’ electricity bills through energy efficiency. Energy costs represent 6 percent of total farming expenses nationally, costing farmers more than $10 billion a year. Federal energy policy should include an energy efficiency standard that provides tax credits to farmers for upgrades to energy-efficient machinery and appliances. This would result in cost savings of more than $1 billion annually, according to the American Council for an Energy Efficient Economy. Federal energy policy could also provide a monthly cash energy refund for rural consumers for any increase in energy costs.
  • Create agricultural carbon market. Agricultural lands and forests in the U.S. play a leading role in addressing carbon emissions, sequestering some 246 million metric tons of carbon annually – about 13 percent of total U.S. greenhouse gas emissions. Federal energy policy should create a market for carbon offsets such as low tillage practices, tree and perennial planting, erosion prevention and rotational grazing. Farmers would also get paid for reducing their methane, carbon dioxide and nitrous oxide emissions. According to the Energy Information Administration, the estimated value of agricultural offsets to farmers could be as much as $24 billion annually.
  • Understand threats posed by climate change to agriculture. Federal energy policy should establishes an interagency National Climate Change Adaptation Council to assess the impacts of climate change on agriculture and other sectors. This includes a fund for state and local adaptation projects, including those on farms.
  • Envision farms as key to energy future. Federal energy policy should work with federal renewable fuel standards to promote ambitious targets for advanced biofuels production while minimizing the use of food-based feed stocks for biofuels and meeting environmental and land-use safeguards. 
  • Assist dairy farms and ethanol production. Dairy farms, which are energy intensive due to the nature of milk production, would especially benefit from energy saving provisions, such as the installation of energy-efficient lighting, ventilation fans and milking systems.

Information source: Some of the data for above provided by Center for American Progress