blueberries and cherries

Climate Change & Conservation News


Judy Anderson

American Farmland Trust applauds introduction of bipartisan bill to advance agrivoltaics

Land trusts are realizing that solar can, and should, be designed to work with farming rather than taking it out of production. That won't happen unless people, and land trusts, make it clear it's possible.

Agrivoltaics refers to the practices of integrating solar energy generation and farming on the same piece of land, which could potentially reduce displacement of agricultural production from farmland as a result of solar development. The concept has been gaining attention in land-constrained countries like Japan and Germany as well as in states like Massachusetts and New Jersey.

“If included in the Farm Bill,” Fink said, “the Agrivoltaics Research and Demonstration Act would secure USDA’s role in advancing this innovation alongside the Department of Energy, AFT, and other partners across the country. Together, we are seeking ways to reduce displacement of farming from productive land as a result of solar energy development.”

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Inflation Reduction Act investments in USDA loan and conservation programs

The IRA Bill provides considerable funding for agricultural climate-smart farming. You can share that information with the farmers and ranchers you know. You can also encourage local conservation groups to feature articles on how agriculture can be part of the climate solution.

On August 16, President Biden signed the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) into law. It offers a historic, once-in-a-generation investment and opportunity for the agricultural communities that USDA serves. The Inflation Reduction Act will help producers stay on the farm, help prevent producers from becoming ineligible for future assistance, and promote climate-smart agriculture by increasing access to conservation assistance.

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Folks And Solar

Can agriculture and solar co-exist?

Katie Jilek grew up on a farm, graduated from LEAD New York (an agricultural leadership program), and serves as the Agricultural Stewardship Association's Communication and Outreach Manager.

As New York faces a future that includes wetter winters, and periods of more frequent droughts during the summer, farming continues to be a challenging livelihood. For many farmers looking to retire, as well as new or younger farmers, the economics of agriculture is increasingly a focal point as they plan their future. According to American Farmland Trust’s Farms Under Threat report, New York lost over a quarter million acres of farmland in sixteen years (2000 – 2016).

The loss of NY’s farmland is concerning. But imagine if farmers had an income stream that helped cover rough years caused by drought, flooding, and erratic weather. That’s part of a shift underway to rethink solar development that works for farmers and farming, rather than taking land out of production.

While I think we can all agree that no one wants to see solar panels on good farmland if it takes that farmland out of production, Farmer First Solar changes that paradigm and prioritizes designs that allow for greater farming options, increased farm viability, and soil health…

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Farming with climate change in mind

Maine Coast Heritage Trust owns a number of farms for educational and recreational purposes. "We’re constantly learning about more regenerative practices from other local farms and Indigenous communities, and we’re sharing what we’re learning with our program participants and through various workshops and networks. For farmers who don’t have the time and resources to try out regenerative techniques, we’re happy to be able to experiment and collect and share data as well as hands-on skills and knowledge of what works."

“A major contributor to climate change is carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. Thankfully, trees, plants, and soils can draw carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere and respirate out oxygen. (That’s one of the many reasons why we love them so much!)

“As farmers, we’re particularly focused on regenerative agriculture, and making our soils as effective as possible at storing carbon.

“At Erickson Fields, where we grow vegetables, we avoid annual row crop farming…”

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Judy Anderson

Douglas County sheep farm working to restore soil and build community, agrivoltaics

"We are an integrated farming business, but we also aggregate and provide market access for other farmers. So instead of having to rely on just a few commodities, smaller farms can diversify their portfolio. When they can diversify their portfolio they have more power over the economics of farming and they can make those changes that help conserve soil.” Another aspect of Jacqueline’s collaborative vision for healthy ecosystems and agriculture economies is agrivoltaics — which involves the simultaneous use of land for both solar power generation and agriculture..."

“Co-locating farming and clean energy production on agricultural land creates rural economic resiliency, provides land access for new and underserved farmers, and builds vital agricultural infrastructure. Unlocking these bottlenecks will create food security that allows small farmers to compete in a global extractive market while focusing on restorative farming practices that heal the land”…

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Celia Llopis-Jepsen / Kansas News Service

How satellite-guided cows might save the Kansas prairie and make ranchers more money

Cattle may not boost plant biodiversity on the prairie as much as bison do, but The Nature Conservancy thinks it’s possible to manage them in ways that support healthier grassland. They are working with a Flint Hills cattle rancher near Strong City in Kansas, along with Kansas State scientists, to see how fitting a herd with GPS collars might help.

STRONG CITY, Kansas — Third-generation rancher Daniel Mushrush has 30-plus miles of barbed wire fence to tend to.

Calves wriggle beneath it. The wires get loose. Wild animals take a toll. And when streams surge after storms, rushing water often snaps sections in two.

For Mushrush and his family, the fence-mending on their Flint Hills ranch never ends. It’s inescapable.

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German Farmer
AP News | Martin Meissner

Sweet return: German farmer gets both solar power and apples

Land trusts and farmers are interested in figuring out how agrivoltaics can help increase farm and ranch viability, soil health, and water management — and allow families to remain on their farms for generations to come.

Many of the apple trees growing beneath solar panels have been producing bountiful electricity during this year’s unusually sun-rich summer, while providing the fruit below with much-needed shade.

“The idea is simple,” said Nachtwey, whose farm lies in Gelsdorf, an hour’s drive south of Cologne. “To protect the orchard, without reducing the available growing surface and in particular maintaining production. On top of that there’s the solar electricity being generated on the same land.”

Large-scale solar installations on arable land are becoming increasingly popular in Europe and North America, as farmers seek to make the most of their land and establish a second source of revenue.

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Paul Lum, California wine grape vineyard

Conquering cover crop challenges

Together, demonstration projects, research, and sharing the results as they unfold is a powerful way to increase community engagement.

Conquering Cover Crop Challenges from Coast to Coast project, funded through a CIG On-Farm Trials grant of $2.6 million, will test innovative solutions that will help overcome regional and crop-specific barriers to cover crop adoption on fifteen farms in five states and three geographic regions.

The project includes 5 years of evaluation of comprehensive soil, economic, and social factors and outcomes. Specifically, the demonstration project is…

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Judy Anderson

Healthy soil grants

Funding is increasingly available to improve farming practices, sometimes called regenerative agriculture, to help slow down climate change and improve water quality, soil health, and clean air.

Vermont farmers have an essential role to play in combating climate change. Some farming practices can trap carbon and keep it out of the atmosphere, while supporting wildlife habitat, healthier soils, and cleaner water. The challenge can be sustaining profitability while making significant changes.

Which practices are worth the investment? And how long will they take to pay off?

To answer these questions and more, we are partnering with Bio-Logical Capital and the University of Vermont on a Conservation Innovation Grant funded by the Natural Resources Conservation Service. This five-year research project will provide direct payments to Vermont farmers who agree to implement farming practices that improve soil health

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Genesee River Demonstration Farms Network

Farmers planting green is a collaborative demonstration project, spearheaded by American Farmland Trust and the Natural Resources Conservation Service, and supported by collaboration between researchers, agricultural and conservation organizations and others within the Genesee River Watershed.

The goals of the Genesee River Demonstration Farms Network are to highlight conservation systems that build soil health and benefit water quality, with on-farm research opportunities to evaluate and demonstrate conservation practices, and to quantify their economic and environmental benefits. The network serves as a platform to share technology, information and lessons learned with farmers, agribusiness, conservation agencies, landowners and the public, and to facilitate farmer-to-farmer discussions and learning opportunities related to conservation practices and their impacts.

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