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Wind energy opens up other possibilities for farmers, ranchers

by Dean Hulse
North Dakota journalist

(Tuesday, April 6, 2004 -- CropChoice guest commentary) -- I might be one of those misguided environmentalists David Van Tassel refers to in his article titled 'Don't forget energy conservation, local economic sovereignty in rush to tap wind power' ( http://www.cropchoice.com/leadstry.asp?recid=2499 ). I applaud the work The Land Institute does, and so, rather than debate David, I would ask him to consider the following: I own a farm in North Dakota that is currently being rented by a conventional farmer--one who owns land adjacent to that which I own, a former neighbor in other words. However, this farmer is nearing retirement age, which, in my mind, begs the question: What next?

With royal payments from a wind energy entity, I would have the cash-flow freedom to convert my farm to native hay, which I and a new, younger renter/partner could sell to farmer/ranchers raising grass-fed livestock. The reason I bring this up is to pose the possibility that there might be many other landowners willing to make a similar conversion if wind energy development was taken to an optimal level, which is far from the case in North Dakota. Perhaps a survey to determine this "conversion potential" is something The Land Institute or another research center could take on.

If survey results show sections of a county or a state where the conversion potential is higher than in other areas/regions, then perhaps wind developers could receive some type of incentive for establishing wind farms there first. In states such as North Dakota, where there really isn't a poor-quality wind site, this concept would work well. Furthermore, doesn't this concept seem to have the makings of a new type of Conservation Reserve Program, one that has more taxpayer benefit than the current program?

Dean Hulse
Fargo, ND

Other articles by Mr. Hulse: