State Legislature Debates Renewable Energy, Technical Assistance for Farmers

Posted on Wednesday, June 6th, 2012 by Jeanne Merrill

Since our beginning, CalCAN has advocated for policies that help ease opportunities for farmers and ranchers to pursue climate-friendly agricultural practices.  This legislative session CalCAN and our allies support two bills that, if passed, will remove barriers to renewable energy generation on farms and provide technical assistance to growers on key soil management issues.

First, on the renewable energy front: Senator Lois Wolk (D-Davis), who championed our successful bill last year (SB 489), is once again advocating for legislation to make it easier for farmers and ranchers to generate renewable energy to run their operations.  Senate Bill 594, the Net Energy Metering Aggregation bill, will allow producers and others who participate in the Net Energy Metering program to aggregate the electrical load of their meters.

Farmers and ranchers typically have multiple meters on their property.  Current law prohibits the power generated by solar panels, wind turbines or other renewable energy generators hooked up to one meter to be credited to other meters.  Consequently, farmers would have to install a separate energy source for each meter, which is extremely inefficient and cost prohibitive and limits their ability to be part of the state’s transition to a clean energy future.

SB 594 will spur new distributed renewable energy generation in California.  The bill will be debated by the Assembly Utilities and Commerce committee on June 18th.  If you would like to support SB 594, click here for a sample letter of support that you can fax to Senator Wolk.

Second, the soil management bill:  CalCAN supports Assembly Bill 2174, authored by Assemblymember Luis Alejo (D-Salinas).  The bill proposes that the Fertilizer Research and Education Program (FREP) grant program can fund voluntary programs to provide technical assistance to growers on nutrient management planning and related activities.

The bill comes on the heels of recent report to the state legislature that finds that agriculture is responsible for over 90 percent of the nitrate groundwater contamination found in the Tulare Lake Basin and Salinas Valley.  The primary sources of the contamination are synthetic fertilizer and manure applications to cropland.  Fertilizer is also a source of nitrous oxide emissions, a potent greenhouse gas.

The FREP program, overseen by the California Department of Food and Agriculture, funds research and education programs intended to address fertilizer use efficiency and prevent groundwater nitrate pollution. AB 2174 would allow organizations like UC Cooperative Extension and Resource Conservation Districts to apply to the FREP program to provide technical assistance to growers interested in addressing fertilizer use on their operations and help protect groundwater and other natural resources.

If you would like to support AB 2174, click here for a sample letter that can be faxed to Assemblymember Alejo’s office.

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