Members of the Obama Administration have embarked on a “listening tour” in rural America this summer,but let’s hope the visits involve more than listening. This is a moment for the Administration’s top officials to engage farmers, ranchers and rural residents in a robust exchange of ideasabout their role in a new American economy.
That role seems as obvious as it is dynamic. The “clean energy economy” President Obama advocatescan revitalize the nation’s long-neglected rural communities.Many of them can become the epicenters of sustainable energy production in the U.S., as well as our principal providers of carbon sequestration services.
In his climate and energy policies, Obama is sowing the seeds for that new era of rural prosperity, but it will be up to rural America to bring in the harvest.
Federal ethanol subsidies seem to be getting all the attention from the farm lobby, but ethanol feedstocks (make that cellulosic) are just one of the new crops that will power America in the years ahead. In parts of the United States, landowners already are making thousands of dollars a year in lease payments to host wind turbines on their fields. Each turbine occupies a very small footprint, which allows farmers and ranchers to continuecropping or grazing the land. That makes wind a very lucrative crop as well as a source of new property tax revenues for rural communities. Continued...