Considerations for Utility Scale Solar Farm Land Lease Agreements

PSEG Wyandot Solar FarmOften heard questions from Ohio farmers these days include “Who is this solar developer?” and “Is a solar land lease agreement good for my farm?”  Well, if you could lease your farmland for $1,200 per acre over 30 years, would you do it? Considering the USDA 2016 National Agricultural Statistics Survey values Ohio cash rent at $160 per acre, this may seem like a rhetorical question. And while on the surface this may seem like a perfectly logical, economic decision, it is important to carefully consider all of the impacts of converting farmland to solar energy production.

As part of an agreement with the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio, AEP Ohio recently committed to developing 400 megawatts of solar in Ohio. In December of 2016, AEP Ohio issued a request for proposals (RFP) to develop up to 100 megawatts of solar energy. In response to the recent RFP, solar developers and representatives from land acquisition firms are contacting farmers and landowners throughout Ohio to secure long-term land lease agreements to site a large utility scale solar farm.

Solar leases are complex long-term commitments with various social, financial, and legal implications. One of the most important components of utility scale solar energy development is the contract between the landowner and the developer, providing site access to the developer. This is often referred to as the solar land lease.

Utility scale solar energy leases are long-term agreements which often range from 20 to 30 years or more. It is crucial that landowners fully understand the details of the agreements to ensure they are adequately compensated and their property rights are protected.

When considering a utility scale solar land lease agreement, do not fall victim to making a rushed decision. Many times, the initial lease is written in favor of the developer to best achieve their long-term interest, flexibility and objectives. Do your homework, conduct a detailed assessment of the developer, the overall project, and seek advice from your tax and legal professionals before signing any paperwork. While every project and lease is unique, below is a list of common issues to consider prior to signing a solar land lease agreement for your farm.

  1. How will a solar lease agreement influence my property taxes?
  2. Are there pre-existing deed restrictions on my farm?
  3. Will a solar project impact my eligibility for Current Agricultural Use Value (CAUV)?
  4. How does a solar land lease impact my property rights?
  5. How will a solar project impact the surface water on my farm?
  6. How is the project decommissioned after the lease expires?
  7. Who is responsible for insurance and liability for the solar project located on my property?
  8. What are the per acre lease rates for utility scale solar projects?
  9. Who will maintain the land?
  10. Is a utility scale solar project subject to the public utility tangible personal property tax?

This blog article has introduced a few of the many of issues to consider before entering into a utility scale solar lease agreement. Landowners approached by a developer to lease their land should carefully consider the legal and tax issues associated with the agreement. Furthermore, landowners are encouraged to work with an attorney that is familiar with energy land leases agreements to negotiate terms representing the landowners long-term interest.

Additional Resources

Eric Romich is an Assistant Professor and Extension Field Specialist for Energy Development.

Everybody has a story

Columbus Dispatch headline

The Columbus Dispatch – August 25, 2016

Everybody has a story. We are all raised somehow, somewhere, by somebody. We are influenced, and we have experiences – good and bad – that shape us. At the end of our lives we leave a footprint, a legacy. Some legacies endure for eternity such as Socrates, Aristotle, DaVinci, and maybe our own George Washington. For most of us our legacies are much more fleeting than these bold examples of humanity. We may be remembered by our friends, and perhaps by our family for a generation or two. But what do they remember and what stories are passed down?

These ruminations came to me after participating in a recent statewide Opiate Crisis Conversation. After the conference I went to dinner with my son who is in his 30s. He told me the story of his roommate who I will call Nick. Nick never met his father, we don’t even know if Nick knows his father’s name. Nick’s dad left his mother when she was pregnant and never came back. Nick’s memories of his mother are that she was a drug addict. That’s how he pictures her, that is his memory of her, that’s what he says when he talks about her. We don’t know what drugs she took, we don’t know if she had a job or where she lived. But we do know she was a drug addict.

Because of his mom’s addiction, Nick was raised by his grandparents. When Nick did spend time with his mom he remembers danger and fear. His mom would take him on adventures, but not to Cedar Point. His adventures were accompanying his mom when she bought drugs.  Instead of visiting the library or staying home and reading, he saw his mom beaten up by boyfriends. These are his memories of his mother.  Nick’s mom died from the ravages of drug abuse before he graduated from high school. He went on to graduate from college and has steady employment with a good company.

When you think about what Nick saw, what he experienced as a very young and impressionable child, what his grandparents were feeling, and the total hopelessness and despair of his mother, it is heartbreaking. Every one of them, each in their own way were impacted, were terrified, were living on the edge, and all of them lost a piece of their soul. His mother lost her life.

His grandparents became his loving parents raising their grandchild while watching their own daughter dissolve under the spell of drugs.  They were parents who watched their adult child lie, cheat and steal because of the craving and dependency that drew her in more and more each day, promising to relieve the pain and ironically killing her at the same time. Imagine the fear felt by grandparents for their grandchild when he spent time with his mother and the stress of raising their grandchild while watching their own child self-destruct. In a different time and a different place they would have been enjoying retirement, instead they were surviving day to day, but not really living.

Then I think of the ripple effect of one person’s actions on a community and on a family. Nick’s grandparents were stable, law abiding citizens, they were you and me and our neighbors, so was his mom, so is he. But Nick’s mom took a turn, a wrong turn and never recovered.  She ended up dying at a young age, leaving behind a son who talks about her in terms of her drug use, and how he saw her treated. That is her legacy. That is her footprint.

Nick is in his 30’s now, and doesn’t have a serious relationship. I don’t know if he ever will. His filter, his frame of reference if you will, is something I cannot even begin to fathom. What is even more profound is that this story isn’t a rare or an isolated incident. I am aware of many stories like this, so many that I have lost count. So I circle back to my original thought. Everyone has a story, and everyone leaves a footprint. We all hurt people and are hurt by people. We all have successes and failures and make mistakes. Sometimes we recover, sometimes we don’t. As a parent, a sibling, a spouse, a friend, and a daughter, I hope that my legacy transcends my mistakes and that the world is gentle when (and if) I am remembered. When I think of all the lost souls, the wasted lives, and the fact that each of us is one decision away from being there, I am very grateful for today. That is my story. What is your story?

Ohio Drug Overdose Data by County

Kyle White is a County Extension Educator in Medina County (Western Reserve EERA).

The Plastic Paradise: STOP!

LIFE Magazine: Throwaway Living

Credit: Life Magazine, 1955.

If you took a moment to look around you right now, how many items would you see made of plastic? As I sit in my office, I have counted at least 30 such items. Fortunately, nearly all them are recyclable. Did you find any items made of single-use plastic, only useful for a few hours, a few minutes, or maybe even a few seconds? These single-use plastics are becoming increasingly more common in our everyday lives, having catastrophic effects on our natural environments, the health of wildlife, and maybe even the health of humans. So the big question now is how did we get here? How did we become a throwaway society that embraces “throwaway living” as Life Magazine called it on their 1955 cover?  Well, for one, throwaway plastics make our lives so much easier. But, are you still willing to take the easy way out when you know of the negative impact our everyday plastic decisions make on our natural resources?

Chart

Data Source: Hardy and Bartolotta, unpublished.

To better understand the answer to this question, Scott Hardy, Ohio Sea Grant Extension Educator in Cuyahoga County, and I conducted a study in Northeast Ohio to understand how often people use single use plastics, the barriers to using reusable alternatives, and what reminders to encourage reuse people prefer for plastic bags, plastic water bottles, and plastic cigar tips. (For this blog, I will just focus on the plastic bags.)

We learned that people in northeast Ohio use reusable bags about 30% of the time and plastic bags about 28% of the time. The most common reason for not using reusable bags is people either forget them at home or in the car. So how do we remind people to bring their reusable bags? Most prefer an incentive, such as money off their purchase, to encourage them to use reusable. Seventy-five percent were also in favor of either a ban, fee, or both a ban and fee on plastic bags.

So how do you fit into the equation? Do you shop? Do you use bags to carry your things from the store? Do you throw those plastic bags away when you get home?

Credit: New Scientist.when you get home?

Fact Check! The average use-time of a plastic bag is 12 minutes. Yet, the lifespan of a bag in the environment is, well… a really long time. Plastic never degrades. It becomes smaller and smaller pieces of plastic that get eaten by our tiniest animal zooplankton making its way up the food web to the fish you like to eat like salmon and perch. “What can I do” you ask? Make it a habit to bring your own bags to the store. It takes 66 days to form a new habit.

Your challenge: For the next 66 days, use ONLY a reusable bag. Come May you will be a reusable bag-toting champion! If you forget your bag at home say “No thank you” to a plastic bag and hand carry it out. Lake Erie thanks you, the zooplankton thank you, and I thank you.

Jill Bartolotta is an Extension Educator with the Ohio Sea Grant College Program.

Endnotes:

catastrophic effects: Bartolotta, J. 2016. You are the solution to the “Eww”. The Ohio State University Community Development Extension Blog.

Website: https://u.osu.edu/extensioncd/tag/marine-debris/.

1955 cover: 2016. The Macro Cost of Micro Contamination. Zero Waste in Action.

Website: http://zerowastezone.blogspot.com/2016/06/the-macro-cost-of-micro-contamination.html

12 minutes: Save the Bay. Reducing Single-Use Plastic Bags in the Environment. Fact Sheet. Website: https://www.savesfbay.org/sites/default/files/news_release/Fact%20Sheet%20single%20use%20bags_MASTER%205-9-14.pdf

get eaten by our tiniest animal zooplankton: New Scientist Magazine. 2015. Plankton snacking on plastic caught on camera for the first time. Website: https://www.newscientist.com/article/dn27849-plankton-snacking-on-plastic-caught-on-camera-for-the-first-time/.

66 days: Lally, P. van Jaarsveld, C.H.M., Potts, H.W.W., and J. Wardle. 2009. How are habits formed: Modelling habit formation in the real world. European Journal of Social Psychology. 40:6, pp. 998-1009. Website: http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/ejsp.674/abstract.

Looking for Leadership?

Leadership! It is a basic fundamental need for any organization to perform at its best. And whether you want to learn more about public service or have thought about becoming more involved in your community, participating in a formal leadership development program may be helpful.

OSU Extension has been involved in such programs for over half a century and recent research shows such programs make a difference. Currently, OSU Extension Clermont County is working to address the needs of local elected officials and appointees of local government committees, zoning and planning commissions, school boards or task forces. The Clermont County Organizational Leadership Academy (CCOLA) includes eight, weekly two-hour workshops involving foundational principles of organizational leadership and decision-making tools enabling participants to learn more about their leadership style and those of others. It also provides opportunities to explore effective strategies for team-building, conducting effective meetings, communicating with citizens and media, managing conflict and building sustainable communities.

The components of the CCOLA can also be customized to fit a specific organization for hands-on training. The workshops below are available on single-session basis in addition to the multi-session Academy format. The sessions are:

  • Public Officials and Public Service: Build a framework for improving your tenure and service in public office. Topics include Duties and Responsibilities of Public Officials, Codes of Ethics, Standards of Conduct, Conflict of Interest, and Open Meetings Laws/Executive Sessions.
  • Team Building: Explore the principles for building effective working relationships with others, with organizations or local governments. Learn more about these relationships with Real Colors ®.
  • Conducting Effective Meetings and Decision Making: The goal for every public official is to “make good decisions.” What is a good decision?  How do we make them? Learn the most effective techniques to conducting effective meetings as well as decision-making processes.
  • Communicating and Working with Citizens and the Media: How can you develop positive and effective working relationships with all community residents, as well as with media representatives? Polish your skills for building effective relationships, while engaging community residents and improving media relations.
  • Building Sustainable Communities: Explore the relationships between growth, development, environment, ecology, social structures and the civic culture. Learn how to build sustainable communities in the areas you serve.
  • Conflict Management and Dispute Resolution: Learn how to work through difficult situations by developing conflict and dispute resolution skills needed to create strong, lasting collaborations.
  • Leadership Skills and Styles: Do you know your leadership style? Do you know that understanding leadership styles and types can help improve  interpersonal relationships and the effectiveness of your organization(s)? Gain skills to improve the operations and effectiveness of your governing body and your personal decision-making.
  • Intergovernmental Relations: Opportunities and Challenges for Cooperation: Explore Ohio law pertaining to opportunities and limitations for intergovernmental agreements and cooperative arrangements. Invest in opportunities to cooperate with others.

For more information about the Clermont County Organizational Leadership Academy or how to register, go to OSU Extension – Clermont County, go.osu.edu/ccola, or contact me using the information below. How are you making your organization or your community better?

For further information, contact Trevor Corboy, Clermont County Community Development Program Coordinator, at 513-732-7070 or email at corboy.3@osu.edu.

What are we going to do to stop this fish?

In last week’s Community Development blog, which you can read here: u.osu.edu/extensioncd/2017/01/19/alien-invaders/, my colleague Tory Gabriel explained the threat of aquatic invasive species (AIS), also known as aquatic nuisance species (ANS).

Bighead carp

Bighead carp

The timing of his blog worked out well for me, because in this week’s blog I am going to tell you about a study Frank Lichtkoppler and I did that was published last month in the Journal of Extension on the topic of probably the most frightening alien fish we have in the United States right now: the Asian Carp. Check out the article here: joe.org/joe/2016december/a5.php.

The Asian Carp is actually four different species of fish: the black carp, grass carp, silver carp, and bighead carp. It has gained a stronghold in large portions of the Mississippi River basin in recent decades. It out-competes native fish species for habitat and food, and its population has skyrocketed as it has no local predators. It represents such an enormous threat to the fisheries of the Great Lakes that the US Army Corps of Engineers has been investigating the closure of the Chicago Area Waterway System (CAWS), the most likely route the Asian Carp could take to the Great Lakes. This system is incredibly important to shipping in the United States.

Let’s say you want to ship something from Cleveland, Detroit or a similar starting point down to Memphis or New Orleans. You must leave the Great Lakes basin and enter into the Mississippi River basin to do that. And of course the same thing goes for cargo coming the other way. Before railroads, canals linking various watersheds like this played an enormous role in contributing to the national economic integration of the United States. This was key in facilitating the economic development of our then young country. Today some of the canals are partially preserved as historical attractions. But the CAWS is different. It still plays a major role in shipping as it is the only waterway linking the Great Lakes to the Mississippi River basin. Estimates of the engineering costs of closing the CAWS and re-routing storm and sanitary sewers, combined with the economic losses that will result from losing it as a transportation corridor, are in the multiple billions of dollars.

So any consideration of the closure of this waterway system, which is also an important visitation attraction that I recommend you see when in Chicago, illustrates just how serious a threat the Asian Carp is. I chose the title to this current blog post partly in deference to a 2014 article from The Verge which underscores the urgency of the problem. The article is called, “America Must Kill This Fish.” I suggest that you take the time to read it here: theverge.com/2014/3/21/5533054/asian-carp-american-waterways.

Two years before that article appeared in The Verge, back in 2012, the US Army Corps of Engineers funded a set of public opinion surveys regarding closure of the CAWS. Because of OSU Extension Sea Grant’s experience in surveying Great Lakes charter captains on a host of issues and topics, the Corps selected our organization to undertake the survey for this key stakeholder group. Charter captains have a lot at stake here because, if the Asian Carp succeeds in reaching the Great Lakes, it will do heavy damage to the fisheries there. Recreational fishermen who hire charter captains are eager to catch walleye, trout, and yellow perch, but those species will be greatly reduced or even destroyed by the presence of Asian Carp. It is not an exaggeration to say that the Asian Carp could cause the worst ecological catastrophe in the history of the Great Lakes.

Our survey revealed that about 95% of charter captains favor closing the CAWS, and that the average captain is willing to pay about $95 a year to contribute to the cost of the closure. Our findings also show that charter captains who are making plans to expand their businesses are willing to pay more for closure, and the increase in willingness to pay is proportional to the magnitude of the expansions they are planning. About 17% of captains said they need more information in order to form a valid measure of their willingness to pay. And of course, the Extension Sea Grant network is currently conducting extensive outreach education to try to close this information gap.

It is not clear what the future is going to be as the country faces the challenge of protecting the Great Lakes from the Asian Carp. Our study plays a modest role in assessing the environmental economic opinions of one key stakeholder group, Great Lakes charter captains. Our contributions may be in the form of leading to surveys of the broader public – including boaters, shoreline anglers and even the American population in general. This would be appropriate since, in the final analysis the Asian Carp really is a national problem and the closure of the CAWS, if it comes, will eventually rely on general taxpayer funding of some type. Another contribution we have made is to the scholarly literature on the methodology of assessing public opinion, which will potentially have implications for how researchers measure opinions on all types of environmental economic topics ranging from global climate change to recycling to preservation of endangered species.

In the meantime, a number of measures have been taken to prevent the Asian Carp from crossing into the CAWS. One is an apparatus that sends a series of electrical shocks through the water as it approaches the CAWS. The level of electric shock intensifies with proximity to the waterway. For now, it seems to be effective. This brings up another point. Critics of the closure of the CAWS have been vocal in pointing out that basin separation, as attractive as it may seem to its proponents, is not a fool proof method of preventing the spread of the Asian Carp to the Great Lakes. And so the question remains: what are we going to do to stop this fish?

Tom Blaine is an Associate Professor with OSU Extension, Community Development.

Alien Invaders

They are all around us. Many humans interact with them on a daily basis. Even if you don’t have direct contact with them personally, all of us are impacted by their mere presence. They come in all shapes, sizes, and colors. Some of them are terrifying, others falsely appear harmless, and still others are so tiny they are invisible to the naked eye.  I’m focusing on the ones that live in Lake Erie.

Aquatic Invasive Species

“Take me to your leader” (Photo by T. Lawrence, Great Lakes Fishery Commission)

That’s right ladies and gentlemen, I’m talking about aquatic invasive species (AIS). They go by many names: alien, introduced, exotic, non-indigenous, non-native. All of these descriptors just mean that it’s an organism that has been brought to a new environment where it doesn’t belong. If that new organism causes some harm, it is known as an invasive species. As in … it’s invading and taking over the new environment, causing harmful impacts on the aquatic natural resources and on the human use of these resources. Some of these species can cost communities millions of dollars due to pricey control efforts, damage to facilities and property, and negative impacts to local tourism opportunities.

According to the Great Lakes Aquatic Non-indigenous Species Information System, there are over 180 non-indigenous species reported to have reproducing populations in the Great Lakes basin, many of which are in Lake Erie. They’ve come from a variety of places and continue to spread, always with human help. Some major pathways include ballast water from international shipping vessels, aquarium introductions, intentional or accidental stocking, and barrier removal (such as shipping canals around Niagara Falls).

Controlling AIS

“If only controlling AIS in Lake Erie could be this much fun…” (Photo from www.gamefabrique.com)

So how can you help in the fight against these alien invaders?

  • Learn to recognize AIS and report new sightings to the Ohio Division of Wildlife.
  • Clean, Drain, Dry! When using boats or other aquatic recreational equipment, before leaving the water access: inspect and remove foreign material, drain water from all containers (bilge, livewell, etc.), clean with high pressure and/or heated water, and allow to dry for at least five days before transporting between bodies of water. Learn more at www.protectyourwaters.net.
  • Dispose of unwanted bait, worms and fish parts in the trash
  • Get Habitattitude! Never dump aquarium pets, plants, other organisms, or water, including bait, from one water body into another. Learn more at http://www.habitattitude.net/.
Independence Day movie poster

“We will not go quietly into the night! We will not vanish without a fight!”  (Photo from www.IMDB.com)

For more information on AIS in the Great Lakes, check out the resources below or contact me at gabriel.78@osu.edu. And good luck to you as you join us in the fight to stop these alien invaders!

Tory Gabriel is the Extension Program Leader & Fisheries Outreach Coordinator (Ohio Sea Grant College Program).

 

Collaborative ‘Work Zones’ transcend traditional office space

We spend a lot of our lives at work. How can we more effectively foster engagement, collaboration, and promote an atmosphere of teamwork? One approach is to develop intentional, multi-purpose collaborative space, or work zones.

“Space” is constantly being re-defined and re-designed. A couple decades ago public spaces were being reclaimed and re-purposed to increase civic engagement. Then classrooms started transforming their space to increase student engagement and incorporate innovative technologies. Today, the places where we actually go to work (our work spaces) are in the spotlight of innovation and debate.

There are dozens of new terms being used to describe innovative work spaces including, for example: smart work spaces, makers’ spaces, co-working spaces, projective spaces, engaged workplaces, and humanized spaces. Regardless of the term, the same principle stands; space impacts humans’ physical and mental capitals.

Effective work spaces can impact the upward mobility of our overall community capitals through our use of space, programming, and outreach efforts. The Harvard Business Review recently posted, “One of the things that environmental psychologists focus on is how design affects mood. Via a chain of psychological chain reactions, mood influences worker engagement; more positive moods link to higher levels of engagement. Designing for engagement is designing to make those positive moods more likely.” (Augustin, 2014)

workspaces-funkt-2017-01-12

Photo: the office of Siteground, designed by Funkt.eu. Photo by: Brava Casa, post on Swipes Personal Blog.

This topic is being studied by academia as well as creating a new niche for design professionals, like Funkt, which are reinventing workspaces and the reason Smart Workplace Design Summits are being held around the world. The evidence is growing for experimenting and breathing new life into our office spaces.

There is a growing demand for such work environments as new employees enter the workplace and seek out work spaces that are welcoming and inviting and promote a general sense of well-being. Comfortable work spaces promote an atmosphere of teamwork, keep minds focused and can limit distractions.

workspaces-spark-lab-2017-01-12

Spark Lab in Hardin County, OH. Photo by Mark Light. Welcome to the Sparks Lab

Mark Light (Hardin County Ohio 4-H Youth Development Educator and CED) has been involved in transforming his traditional office space into a dynamic makers’ space. Mark stated, “The goal of the Hardin County Ohio Spark Lab is to instill that inspiration or ‘spark’ that youth and adults need to discover, learn, and grow in a creative environment. This setting is more than just a futuristic classroom or makers’ space. It is a center of innovation in a rural county framed through the education lens of a land grant university system.” (Light, 2016)

The Hardin County Ohio Spark Lab makers’ space was made possible through a combination of funding sources: an OSU Extension Innovation grant, Columbus Foundation funding, and the Hardin County Commissioners. Sometimes, funding needs to be as creative as the spaces we are trying to create. These are exciting times to be working in!

Walk around your work space in the New Year and talk among your peers. See if creative steps and funding streams can be explored to make your work space more innovative and engaging for you, your colleagues, and your community’s benefit.

Meghan Thoreau is a new OSU Extension Educator in Community Development with a focus on providing leadership and programming to meet current and future needs related to STEM education with Pickaway County schools. Meghan grew up in Milwaukee, Wisconsin; is an avid traveler and has lived in a number of places, including Western Wyoming, Upstate New York, and Eastern South Dakota, before moving with her family to Central Ohio. She’s worked with communities both at the municipal and grassroots levels and has always strived to strengthen communities and increase the quality of life for residents.

Post References:

Augustin, Sally. (2014, October 28) Rules for Designing an Engaging Workplace. Harvard Business Review. Available at: hbr.org/2014/10/rules-for-designing-an-engaging-workplace

Light, Mark. (2016, May 16) Welcome to the Spark Lab. Hardin County Spark Lab. Available at: u.osu.edu/sparklab/2016/05/22/welcome/

2017 New Year’s Resolutions – How wide is your impact?

resolutions-2017-01-05With the beginning of 2017, many of us are creating our New Year’s Resolutions. These resolutions are often focused on our individual welfare, benefiting our physical and mental well-being. So we may resolve to join the local gym to get more exercise, go to bed earlier to get 7-8 hours of sleep and commit to eat more fruit and vegetables. With these lifestyle changes, we hope to live a long and healthy life.

While personal resolutions are good, might we also add New Year’s resolutions that challenge our leadership abilities to benefit the health and long-term vitality of our community?

Engaging in Your Community in 2017

There are many different ways to engage in community and many different levels of involvement. For example, one can volunteer within a local organization, using their skills to help advance organizational goals. One may also resolve to involve the business, institution or organization they work for in bringing resources to assist local communities. Another possibility involves donating one’s work place technical skills to assist local governments, non-profits or faith-based communities to complete tasks they cannot fund. For example, if you have the skills needed to create or manage a website, you could contribute that skill to keep web-based information current and relevant. Another example is volunteering one’s facilitation skills to aid in goal setting, strategy building or other planning processes.

Call to Action!

Now is the time to get creative with your New Year’s resolutions that cause you to become more engaged in your community. Work with others if needed, to identify ways that you can benefit the health, well-being and long-term vitality of your community and its residents. And don’t forget to also keep those personal resolutions regarding your own health and well-being. Chances are, by accomplishing both, you will feel more empowered, realize you have made a difference during 2017 and your physical/mental health benefits will be multiplied.

Myra Moss is an Associate Professor and Extension Educator (Heart of Ohio EERA).

Recognizing Extension professionals for impact

extension-annual-conference-2016Investing for Impact – the theme of this year’s OSU Extension Annual Conference – describes our work each and every day. Such investment was realized on December 6th and 7th as dozens of Extension professionals were recognized for their accomplishments at the Ohio Union on the Columbus campus of OSU.

OSUE CD educatorsThe continued excellence of OSU Extension professionals was formally acknowledged by JCEP/ESP awards for scholarships, team teaching and creative works; ESP chapter and regional awards; CES and national association awards; and awards for service. Our very own Raymond A. Schindler Excellence in Community Development Award was bestowed upon Eric Romich.

Click here to read more about all of the CD professionals who were formally recognized for their valuable work in 2016 as well as the 2016 Excellence in Community Development awardee. Kudos to all of these individuals who worked in collaboration with others and invested every available resource to make significant impact for the communities we serve.

To learn more about the high impact efforts that are bringing people and ideas together throughout Ohio, click here.

Feed People, Not Landfills

food-waste-2-2016-12-15

How can we improve the environment, save money, and more effectively address food insecurity issues? One approach within the larger sustainability movement involves looking more closely at the issue of food waste.

According to the U.S. EPA, in 2014 more than 38 million tons of food waste was generated, with only 5.1% being diverted from landfills and incinerators through composting efforts. The EPA estimates more food reaches landfills and incinerators than any other single material in our waste streams, accounting for 21.6% of our discarded solid waste.

According to the Natural Resource Defense Council (NRDC), an international environmental advocacy group, “Getting food from the farm to our fork eats up 10 percent of the total U.S. energy budget, uses 50 percent of U.S. land, and swallows 80 percent of all freshwater consumed in the United States.” When we consider the large amount of natural resources used for food production it is troubling that 40% of food in the U.S. goes uneaten. The uneaten food ends up rotting in landfills where it accounts for a large portion of U.S. methane emissions, posing negative effects on the environment. However, food waste is not only an environmental concern, but also a social and economic issue.

food-waste-2016-12-15The economic effects of food waste are just as startling. Americans throw away the equivalent of $165 billion worth of food each year. In addition to food waste occurring at the consumer level, 10% of the total food supply at the retail level enters the solid waste stream. The USDA estimates that supermarkets lose $15 billion annually in unsold fruits and vegetables alone, in addition to the baked goods, meat, seafood, and ready-made foods that go unsold. These items can easily be recovered from the waste stream by donating them to local food banks and food pantries, and retailers can receive tax benefits for doing so.

Aside from economic and environmental benefits of reducing food waste, recovering or diverting edible food from the waste stream could help to address the larger social issue of food insecurity in the U.S. In 2015, 12.7% of U.S. households (15.8 million households) were food insecure (USDA ERS), and 6.6% of households in Ohio were found to have “very low food security,” defined by the USDA as households in which “normal eating patterns of one or more household members were disrupted and food intake was reduced at times during the year because they had insufficient money or other resources for food.” Reducing food losses by just 15% recovers enough food to feed more than 25 million Americans every year, which could have a profound impact when we consider that one in six Americans lacks a secure supply of food.

To learn more about food waste and food recovery systems contact Amanda Osborne (osborne.414@osu.edu), County Extension Educator, Cuyahoga County & Western Reserve EERA.