Vermont Law School Launches Farm and Energy Initiative

Helping farmers reduce energy use and produce cleaner energy onsite to improve the economic and environmental sustainability of farms and food systems nationwide.

In an effort to support the economic health and viability of farms, while promoting their transition to renewable energy resources, the Center for Agriculture and Food Systems (CAFS) and the Institute for Energy and the Environment (IEE) at Vermont Law School have together launched the Farm and Energy Initiative.

The Initiative will lead research projects to identify energy strategies that improve energy efficiency, reduce energy consumption, and integrate the production of renewable energy like solar power into farming practices.

“Energy is one of the most expensive and unpredictable costs that farmers and food producers face,” said Laurie Beyranevand, Director of CAFS. “Providing resources to enable them to better control these costs, while saving energy and integrating clean, renewable energy, is a main goal of the Farm and Energy Initiative.”

There is enormous potential for expanding energy efficiencies measures on small and mid-sized farms, and for the smart deployment of renewable energy resources that serve farming operations and food producers.

“In recent years, the Institute for Energy and the Environment has worked with local farmers on a number of projects, from developing a true community solar project on a farm in West Rutland, helping navigate regulations of a microhydro project on a Danby farm, exploring the viability of anaerobic biodigesters in conjunction with organic composting, to examining the potential of energy efficiency for a local farmers’ food hub” said Kevin Jones, Director of the IEE. “The Farm and Energy Initiative will help us build upon this work and share our research with farmers and energy professionals nationwide.”

In launching the Farm and Energy Initiative, Vermont Law School has hired a new staff attorney and an LLM Fellow who will work within the Institute for Energy and the Environment to support the initiative.  This year, the Farm and Energy Initiative is focusing on two main projects:

  • Partnering with American Farmland Trust to investigate regulatory strategies for the siting of solar energy facilities on agricultural land. Researchers will analyze differences in state approaches to balance solar development with farmland protection and will evaluate the efficacy of the implementation of these regulations.
  • Researching the use of regenerative agricultural practices to combat climate change, and the potential for using existing and emerging technologies to capture greenhouse gas emissions from agricultural practices.

“Solar energy can be great fit for many small and mid-sized farms,” said Genevieve Byrne, staff attorney for the Farm and Energy Initiative. “But solar can also be a threat to local agriculture if its poorly sited on prime farmland. We are excited to work with American Farmland Trust to find the right balance of protecting productive farmlands while producing more clean, renewable solar power.”

The Farm and Energy Initiative was launched with the support of a grant from the National Agricultural Library of the U.S. Department of Agriculture. The research findings of the Farm and Energy Initiative will be published in NAL.

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The Institute for Energy and the Environment at Vermont Law School provides accessible resources on contemporary energy law and policy with a focus on a cleaner and more resilient grid of the future. The IEE distributes scholarly, technical, and practical publications; provides forums and conferences for professional education and issue development; and serves as a center for graduate research on energy issues, with environmental awareness. IEE research associates are selected from students in the energy and environmental programs at Vermont Law School, top-ranked in the nation for environmental law. For more information about the IEE, visit vermontlaw.edu/iee

The Center for Agriculture and Food Systems at VLS supports scholars and practitioners in producing practical, robust scholarship for use by the food and agriculture community. CAFS offers an expanding curriculum in food and agriculture for law and policy students, and training and legal tools to help build sustainable local and regional food systems. Recent CAFS projects include the Farmland Access Legal ToolkitFarmers Market Legal ToolkitHealthy Food Policy ProjectBlueprint for a National Food StrategyNational Gleaning Project, and Farm Animal Welfare Certification Guide. For more information about CAFS, visit vermontlaw.edu/cafs, email cafs@vermontlaw.edu, and follow on Facebook and Twitter.