by Roger Johnson, NFU president
Countries around the world are investing heavily in renewable energy. From developed countries in the European Union and the United States to developing countries such as China, India and Brazil, governments understand the importance of promoting renewable energy. After all, it’s really a no-brainer: renewable energy is a win-win for the climate, the economy and farmers worldwide.
Farmers understand that their livelihoods depend on the quality of their land. Unfortunately, climate change is a threat to agriculture in all parts of the world. Unpredictable weather, including increased droughts and floods, and more intense storms will put pressure on agriculture systems. Add to that new risks, such as pests and weeds brought on from changing climates, and you get an agriculture sector that can see a lot of turbulence in the coming years. In the end, climate change is a real threat to global food security, agricultural productivity and farm incomes.
While it is vital to change farming operations to adapt to climate change, farmers and ranchers have a responsibility to be part of the climate solution. Producing renewable energy on farms has tremendous potential to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and mitigate climate change as a result.
The good news is that renewable energy sources are available in rural areas around the world, making farmers key drivers in the move towards renewable energy. In the United States, different areas of the country have specific advantages. The southwest and west have access to many days of strong sunlight that can be used for solar power, while wide swaths of the Midwest have some of the best wind resources in the world. The northeast and southeast are home to vast tracts of biomass resources that can be used for a variety of purposes, including biofuels. The rest of the world can tap into similar sources.
With renewable energy production, not only are farmers helping the planet combat climate change they are also making money in the process and keeping that money in rural areas. Nearly 75 percent of poor people in the world live in rural areas. But, by generating and selling energy, farmers can diversify their revenue stream and increase their incomes. In the United States, there is a tendency to think that there aren’t economic opportunities in rural areas, so young people often look to urban areas for career moves. According to the Environmental and Energy Study Institute, approximately one million Americans are employed in the renewable energy sector. This is a fast growing industry that will continue to create opportunities for farmers, ranchers and rural Americans.
People all over the world would do well to look towards renewable energy as a way to fight climate change and help the bottom lines of family farmers.