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Closing arguments today in NY Trump trial; KY education activists campaign against public funds for private schools; FL expert stresses vigilance, and compassion this hurricane season; and working to create connections, age-friendly communities in Mississippi.

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Actor Robert DeNiro joins Capitol Police officers to protest Donald Trump at his New York hush money trial, while both sides make closing arguments. And the Democratic party moves to make sure President Biden will be on the ballot in Ohio.

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Smokey Bear thought only "you" could prevent forest fires, but decomposing mushrooms may also help, a Native American community in Oregon is achieving healthcare sovereignty, and Colorado farmers hope fast-maturing, drought-tolerant seeds will better handle climate change.

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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