Tuesday, March 21, 2023

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Texas lawmakers consider legislation to prevent cities from self-governance, Connecticut considers policy options to alleviate an eviction crisis, and Ohio residents await community water systems.

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Gov. Ron DeSantis breaks his silence on Trump's potential indictment and attacks Manhattan prosecutors, President Biden vetoes his first bill to protect socially conscious retirement investing, and the Supreme Court hears a case on Native American water rights.

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The 41st state has opted into Medicaid which could be a lifeline for rural hospitals in North Carolina, homelessness barely rose in the past two years but the work required to hold the numbers increased, and destruction of the "Sagebrush Sea" from Oregon to Wyoming is putting protection efforts for an itty-bitty bunny on the map.

Dual-Use Solar Means Healthier IA Honeybees

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Wednesday, March 15, 2023   

Farmers, ranchers and livestock producers are working with solar companies in Iowa to find multiple uses for land once used only to plant corn and soybeans.

Some are investing in what's known as "dual-use solar" or agrivoltaics. They are cultivating profitable crops, grazing livestock, even raising healthier honeybees, all in the shadows of solar panels. Farmers can grow clover and other highly pollinating grasses under the panels, and put beehives adjacent to those fields.

Lindsay Mouw, policy associate at the Center for Rural Affairs, said "solar beekeeping" is an example of how alternative energy interests and farmers cannot only coexist, but mutually benefit. She argued it will be a necessity as solar consumes more Iowa farmland.

"If we want to keep land in some type of agricultural production, while producing energy with solar, solar beekeeping or other dual-use solar practices are a great option to do that," Mouw explained.

Mouw pointed out the practice gives offers solar beekeepers diverse pollen sources for honey, which can then be sold as a specialty, locally grown product. Project developers benefit from the energy produced by the solar panels and nearby farmers profit from the bees' pollination services.

In addition to environmental benefits, local beekeepers see health benefits, too.

Joel Fassbinder, owner and operator of Highlandville Honey Farm in Winneshiek County, was raised in a beekeeping family and is in his ninth year of running his own operation. He said moving his bees away from traditional farms using pesticides has produced healthier bees.

"Being in Iowa, you're around conventional farming a lot, with spraying and stuff, and so, any chance to move them in a place where there might be less of that going on is a benefit," Fassbinder emphasized. "Also, the honey that they make is not only good tasting and light colored for human consumption, but bees consume it as well."

Backers of dual-use solar say it can provide new revenue streams for farmers, as well as avenues into ag production for people who want to farm or raise livestock on a smaller scale.

Disclosure: The Center for Rural Affairs contributes to our fund for reporting on Budget Policy and Priorities, Environment, Hunger/Food/Nutrition, and Rural/Farming Issues. If you would like to help support news in the public interest, click here.


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