Guest Columnist

Wind is a cash crop for rural Iowa

A rotor assembly is moved into position as construction continues at Alliant Energy's English Farms Wind Farm near Deep
A rotor assembly is moved into position as construction continues at Alliant Energy’s English Farms Wind Farm near Deep River, Iowa on Thursday, Jan. 10, 2019. Once completed, the farm with 69 wind turbines will produce around 170 megawatts of electricity, enough to power about 60,000 houses. (Jim Slosiarek/The Gazette)

The farm economy has helped power Iowa since the early days of statehood, and the sector’s massive positive impact continues today. But you don’t have to look far to find farmers who are feeling the pinch.

In the course of a single growing season, Iowa’s farmers have faced everything from historic flooding to long dry spells. They’ve wrestled with uncertainty stemming from global trade disputes and felt the brunt of Chinese tariffs. And just like any other year, questions regarding yield, weather, prices, and more will keep farmers up at night for months to come.

Even during the best of times, farming is an uncertain way of life. That’s why opportunities to add some stability to farmers’ financial outlook are so important and impactful.

Iowa wind energy represents just such an opportunity. And whether you’re a global tech titan selecting the site of your new facility or a family farmer looking to bring in some stable, predictable money, Iowa’s nation-leading wind power is cause for celebration.

Wind power supports 10,000 jobs and drives billions in investment in Iowa, and the agriculture sector feels those impacts firsthand. Farmers and landowners earn between $20 and $30 million each year by leasing their land to wind developers for the construction of turbines. Wind energy is truly a cash crop for Iowans.

This reliable, drought-proof income will never be impacted by bad weather, bad yields, low crop prices, or any of the other worries that hang over the heads of every farmer who ever sunk a plow into Iowa soil. It’s money that can help a family farm succeed — whether it’s by insulating the farm from the impacts of a bad season or by funding the purchase of new equipment, new land, or other improvements in good times.

This new source of income doesn’t prevent farmers from staying focused on what they do best. Since a wind turbine only takes up around a quarter of an acre, a typical wind farm leaves around 98 percent of the surrounding agricultural lands undisturbed. That means even as Iowa wind powers more and more of our economy, Iowa farmers can continue to feed the world as we have for so long.

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Farming is and always will be deeply ingrained in Iowa’s way of life. And as our economy evolves, wind is poised to play a front-and-center role in powering a bright future — for farmers and everyone else.

Bill Menner is executive director of the Iowa Rural Development Council.

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