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(36,948 posts)
Mon Nov 26, 2012, 01:57 PM Nov 2012

Helping agriculture go green

Over the past months I've been reading about solar, bio-gas and geothermal off and on and also about how some farms are installing such. With that, I've been kicking around ideas how the federal govt. could greatly assist farms in going green and how to fund such a national project.

I live in Michigan so almost all my research on agriculture is on this state so I'll use Michigan as an example of what could be possibly done. Most of the numbers I'll be citing is from memory so I could be off. Maybe even way off and it's also possible that some of the articles I read contained inaccurate information so bear with me on that. Michigan ranks 22nd in agriculture output which makes it about average amongst all states and that works out quite well here.

There are about 100 farms in this state that produce enough animal waste where it thus makes economic sense to install a bio-gas electric power plant on site. The approximate cost for a bio-gas plant is about 2.2 million for a total of 220 million.

Dairy farms are energy intensive because of the need to cool the milk and power the milking equipment. There are about 2500 dairy farms in Michigan and the average herd size is 114 cows. The approx. cost to install a solar system that would provide enough electricity for dairy farm with an average size herd is $80,000. The approx. cost to install a geothermal heating cooling system for a home is $30,000 for a total of $110,000 which I'll increase to $125,000 to take into account potential unforeseen expenses.

Hog farms and poultry farms are also electrical energy intensive too. There are a little less then 500 hog farms in the state and I've never been able to find out how many poultry farms there are here but I'll use the figure of 500 for a total of 3500 dairy, hog and poultry farms. Multiplying $125,000 by 3500 gives a cost of $437,500,000.

There are about 56,000 farms in the state. The majority of which are small or part time. Subtracting the number of farms already mentioned gives a total of 52,400. Installing a 5kw solar system and a geothermal heating /cooling system would cost about $75,000 each for a total cost of $3,930,000,000.

Adding it all up comes up with a total cost of $4,587,500,000 just for Michigan. I'll round this up to $5 billion to make my calculations on the back of an envelope easier and to provide a cushion to account for extra costs. If one agrees that Michigan is about average, the total cost for the entire nation would be $250 billion..

That's a great deal of money but the way to pay for it would be to eliminate the home mortgage tax deduction or cap it. The home mortgage deductions costs the federal govt. about $80 billion a year and even if one just capped it so the revenue was $50 billion, that be way more then enough to fund such a project over a ten year period of time as it'd be impossible to accomplish such a task in just a few years. The extra money could go to fund the construction of large scale solar farms in the South West on military bases and Indian reservations and for the construction of high powered transmission lines to transfer that power not just west to California but as far east as Atlanta, Georgia. And I believe there would be enough money left to also fund the construction of desalinization plants in California, Texas and Florida. Agriculture requires a great deal of water and the three states I mentioned are ranked 1, 2 and 10th respectively nationwide in agricultural receipts.

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Helping agriculture go green (Original Post) Kaleva Nov 2012 OP
Should the focus be on making agriculture go green, or our food systems? NoOneMan Nov 2012 #1
A link to an article about a solar grand plan Kaleva Nov 2012 #2


(4,795 posts)
1. Should the focus be on making agriculture go green, or our food systems?
Mon Nov 26, 2012, 02:13 PM
Nov 2012

So far, people are approaching this question the same way they are approaching our economy: How can we continue infinitely growing exploitation of our land in a sustainable way? But is infinitely growing exploitation ever sustainable? Perhaps we really need to think about the entire way we have developed our food systems, and move toward phasing agriculture out (almost completely).

So perhaps we need to change the farming paradigm focusing on a single question: how can we maximize energy yield while minimizing energy inputs and building carbon sinks. Labor intensive agriculture has failed to do this, despite its ability to create large yields. The real answer to the problem is no-till woody perennials (agroforestry, forest gardens, horticulture), which can produce higher per acre energy yields, creates long-lasting carbon sinks and requires very little machinery and labor in comparison. And as for making animal husbandry go "green", Im not even sure its possible (my opinion: you want meat, go hunt it).

The fundamental problem is that humans only want to continue the party as they know it by making cosmetic adjustments, rather than change it for perpetual survival.


(36,948 posts)
2. A link to an article about a solar grand plan
Mon Nov 26, 2012, 04:12 PM
Nov 2012

It's projected to cost 420 billion over 40 years but using the source of potential revenue that I discussed in the OP would cover it.
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