Clean energy summit shows farmers innovation is necessary for success

PERRYSBURG, Ohio — A new market for farmers may be opening, and for some, it may boost farm income without any additional labor.

Combining forces

A group effort by U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH), the Ohio Corn Growers Association and the American Farmland Trust brought together a group to discuss agriculture and clean energy Aug. 13.

The group’s agenda was to find out how proposed clean energy legislation passed by the U.S. House of Representatives in June and a bill set to be heard by the U.S. Senate this fall would impact Ohio agriculture.

Becoming a leader

Brown said Ohio is already a leader in clean energy initiatives and, with a push, the state could become the Silicon Valley of clean energy.

One example he gave was the use of wind turbines on farms, especially in the northwestern part of the state.

Investigating ideas

Brown said the summit will give him ideas to take back to Washington, specifically about the cap-and-trade system proposed in the climate change legislation.

Proponents would like to have legislation passed by the time the U.N. global warming summit in Copenhagen in December convenes so the U.S. can show the world what is being done to help combat global warming.

No agriculture regulation

he legislation passed by the House does not put any regulations on agriculture, according to Bill Hohenstein, director, USDA Global Change Program Office, but it will impact agriculture with higher energy prices.

The bill, as it stands, will set caps on greenhouse gas emissions from business and corporations.

Currently, it will reduce greenhouse gas emissions 85 percent from the current sources, but this could ultimately mean higher prices for consumers.

Feeling the impact

The question faced by many farmers is how much will prices be impacted and how will this program work.

And the problem is that right now, there are more questions than answers.

Many of the attendees agreed that because every farm is different, there will be no surefire way to determine how the program will impact a farm.

Carbon credits

The program, as it is designed now, will involve farmers selling carbon credits to companies in the commodities market.

For example, if a farmer uses no-till practices, better manure management such as an anaerobic digester or a hybrid corn that uses less water and fertilizer than conventional seed, they will be benefiting the environment and be able to sell the carbon credits they are producing.

Other potential ways agriculture producers will be able to produce carbon credits will include reforesting land and planting perennial grasses.

However, some variables surrounding the legislation will be in areas that can’t be controlled.

For example, the number of carbon credits distributed for no-till practices will depend on the type of soil. If the land is full of organic materials, it will be issued a certain number of credits. If the land is sandy, very few carbon credits will be issued.

“The devil is in the details of this,” said Fred Yoder, an Ohio corn producer and member of the Ohio Corn Growers Association.

Do it now

Many in attendees also stated it is better to get involved in the legislation being crafted instead of waiting for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to begin regulation of the problems.

“If we don’t accept the climate legislation now, then the EPA will regulate it, so it’s our opportunity to do it now,” said Yoder.

Roger Wise, Sandusky County producer of soybeans, corn and wheat and member of the Ohio Farmers Union, appeared to show similar feelings.

“The notion not to do anything will cost more. The gains will outweigh the costs,” said Wise.

U.S. Senator Sherrod Brown

About the Author

Kristy Foster Seachrist lives in Columbiana County raising sheep and horses. She earned her degree from Youngstown State University and has worked in both print and broadcast journalism. You can follow her on Twitter at http://twitter.com/fosterk96. More Stories by Kristy Foster Seachrist

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