Washington--Matt Erickson, an economist with the American Farm Bureau Federation, said there are a number of ways farmers and ranchers are incorporating renewable energy in their operations. Many use solar power to run the lights in barns, wind to power water pumps for livestock and irrigation, and biofuels to run equipment. Many hog and dairy farmers use anaerobic digesters.
“They [farmers] are taking the manure and they’re using it for electricity and for fertilizer,” Erickson explained. “The manure is going through the anaerobic digester and it’s taking the methane gas and using it as electricity for the farmer’s operation, which then can be sold back to the electric grid. Then you’re left over with some dry matter that can be sold back into the fertilizer industry or put back onto the field.”
But Erickson said programs that help farmers and ranchers with the initial investment to install equipment that can cost thousands of dollars are in danger. “There is an energy title within the farm bill. Eight of those programs within the energy title do not have funding after 2012. So where is this money going to come from to build that infrastructure, to build those digesters, those wind turbines, etc.? That’s going to be one of the biggest challenges, getting funding because of the budget situation,” he said.