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Mon May 11, 2020, 08:16 AM

Clean energy policies can help drive economic development in rural Minnesota

The Minnesota economy is showing severe strain from fallout of the COVID-19 pandemic. Thousands of people are unemployed and the stay-at-home order is keeping many businesses from opening their doors. While we think about the toll for small businesses, restaurants and other “non-essential” companies, the tragedy facing rural Minnesota farmers and agriculture industries is just as dire. Farmers have been living with depressed commodity prices for years, but the pandemic has pushed them even further. Ethanol plants, which consume nearly 40 percent of the state’s corn, are idled. Dairy farmers are forced to flush their milk down the drain, and hog producers are unable to sell their animals because the meatpacking plants are shutting down.

Fortunately, southwestern Minnesota has been able to diversify its economy with the infusion of wind energy. Since the inception of the production tax in 2002, over $100 million has been returned to rural Minnesota counties and townships. This is in addition to millions more in stable land lease payments, now standing at $26 million annually.

Energy efficiency has also provided financial benefits. Farmers and businesses of all sizes are constantly looking for efficiencies to lower their costs of operation. In Nobles County, we have adopted more efficient lighting, electrical motors for ventilation and heating systems for our grain dryers. These practices are no-brainers because the energy savings is greater than the cost of adoption.

The Minnesota Legislature has an opportunity to build on these two successful polices. The Clean Energy First bill and the Energy Conservation and Optimization, or ECO Act, can help further drive economic opportunities across our state.

Read more: https://minnesotareformer.com/2020/05/11/clean-energy-policies-can-help-drive-economic-development-in-rural-minnesota/

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