This weekend features an event that offers U.S. agriculture a prominent platform to highlight not only the practices that make American farmers the most productive in the world, but the policies that enable those practices as well. The first-ever Iowa Ag Summit set for Des Moines Saturday will draw together ag leaders, policy makers and, with a presidential election coming next year, a slate of likely Republican candidates with sights set on the White House.
In addition to food, feed and fiber, a significant portion of the production from farms and rural areas in Iowa is renewable energy, primarily through the state’s strong biofuels industry, but also via a wide array of wind energy facilities in the state’s rural areas, and a burgeoning solar power sector. And it’s important for policymakers and presidential hopefuls attending this weekend’s summit to recognize that growth and agree to promote it on a national level.
The growing value of that renewable energy production to the state’s economy, job growth and energy diversity has been generated through strong state government policies. And those policies serve as models that can be implemented as part of a national strategy to pursue a clean energy future. It’s a point being reinforced this week by a coalition of agriculture value chain groups who are calling on those national figures coming to Des Moines to assert their support of renewable energy.
A quick look at the state’s output shows Iowa ranks near the top in the United States in production of renewable energy.
Iowa accounts for 30 percent of total U.S. biofuels production, adding $13.1 billion to the state’s economy, generating $4.1 billion dollars in new household income, and creating and supporting 62,000 jobs statewide. Iowa’s 10 biodiesel plants have produced more than 225 million gallons in each of the last two years, supporting more than 4,300 full-time equivalent jobs and contributing more than $471 million to the state’s GDP.
Iowa ranks among the top three states in the nation in wind energy. With nearly 5,200 megawatts of capacity online (third in the nation), wind makes up 27 percent of the Iowa’s total electricity generation, the nation’s largest share among states and enough to power nearly 1.5 million homes. Capital investment in the sector has reached $10 billion, helping to support up to 4,000 direct and indirect jobs. Iowa is also host to 14 active wind-related manufacturing facilities that create jobs and boost the economy.
Investments in solar projects are growing, offering great economic growth opportunities. One prominent example is the recent launch of the Farmers Electric Cooperative solar farm in Johnson County, which will generate more than 1 million kilowatt hours each year, enough to power some 120 homes out of the co-op’s 650-home service area. The solar facility will reduce costs for ratepayers and eliminate more than 10 tons of carbon emissions annually.
The 25x’25 Alliance has drawn together two dozen of the nation’s and state’s most powerful farmer organizations, commodity groups, renewable energy trade associations, advocacy groups, national and state biodiesel organizations, equipment manufacturers and think tanks, among others, to join in an open letter urging the summit speakers, both local and national, to acknowledge the critical role of renewable energy and to support enabling public policies that will allow it to contribute to a strong and vibrant rural economy.
With the United States and other nations around the world seeking ways to a low-carbon future, policy makers don’t have to look any further than progress being made in Iowa. Farmers around the state are taking advantage of abundant, economical and clean sources of energy. It is important this weekend that national leaders coming through Des Moines look upon Iowa as a strong example of what is possible for a clean energy future across the United States.