Farmers are embracing another means of turning sunlight into revenue during a sharp downturn in crop prices: solar power.
Solar panels are being installed across the Farm Belt for personal and external use on land where growers are struggling to make ends meet. The tit-for-tat tariffs applied by the U.S. and China to each other’s goods have cut demand for American crops. Futures prices for corn, soybeans and wheat are all trading around their lowest levels since 2010. Making matters worse, record spring rainfall left many farmers no time to plant a decent crop.
The revenue that Dick and Jane Nielsen earn from the corn and soybeans they grow on 3,500 acres outside St. Paul, Minn., has dropped by about 30% over the past six years. The Nielsens are planning to make up some of the shortfall with the roughly $14,000 a local utility has agreed to pay them annually for the next 22 years to operate an array of solar panels on 15 acres of their land.