Sponsored By
Nebraska Farmer Logo

Wind leases and foreign ‘control’ of farmland

From the Mailbag: The former Nebraska Energy Office director talks about what “control” means with wind leases.

Curt Arens

February 5, 2024

2 Min Read
Wind turbines
FOREIGN CONTROL: Former Nebraska Energy Office director David Bracht wrote to Nebraska Farmer to talk about the facts when it comes to wind leases and foreign “control” of farmland, as far as the actual numbers of acres under foreign control through the leases. Curt Arens

David Bracht knows energy. The former director of the Nebraska Energy Office was appointed in 2015 by Gov. Pete Ricketts and served as an important adviser to the governor’s office on energy policy.

Today, Bracht is an attorney with Kutak Rock, a law firm based in Omaha, and advises agriculture and renewable energy clients on corporate, finance and regulatory issues.

Bracht recently wrote to Nebraska Farmer, discussing our January cover story, “Who owns Nebraska land?” Bracht took issue with the use of the word “control” in the article, when describing primarily land leases involving wind and solar projects, because a large portion of foreign “controlled” ag land in the state is under such lease arrangements.

“I think the word ‘control’ doesn’t properly describe the situation for most wind and solar projects,” Bracht wrote in his emailed letter on Jan. 2. “Based on my time as state energy director and working with wind project developers before and after that, nearly all wind projects include only an easement grant in the farmer’s lease allowing the developer to build the wind project.”

Bracht continued, “The easements are signed before individual turbine locations are set and generally cover the farmer’s entire parcel to allow the company to select the optimal locations.”

Related:What foreign interests control Nebraska farmland?

He explained that usually only 1-3 acres or less are required for one turbine, so that would mean that the land actually taken out of production is much less than the easement acres, as reported by USDA.

As an example, Bracht cited the five wind energy projects located in Antelope County. If all 368 turbines in those projects were located in Antelope County and all required a full 3 acres per turbine, the total land truly controlled by the wind developer would be 1,000 acres. That’s barely one quarter of 1% of the 280,574 acres reported through the Agricultural Foreign Investment Disclosure Act.

Bracht said he is a proponent of wind and solar development. He noted that landowners normally receive between $10,000 and $15,000 per turbine, which, unlike commodity prices, is fixed and sometimes increases during the 20- to 25-year term of the project.

In addition, local counties receive between $7,500 and $10,000 per turbine in additional tax revenue, benefiting the entire community.

About the Author(s)

Curt Arens

Editor, Nebraska Farmer

Curt Arens began writing about Nebraska’s farm families when he was in high school. Before joining Farm Progress as a field editor in April 2010, he had worked as a freelance farm writer for 27 years, first for newspapers and then for farm magazines, including Nebraska Farmer.

His real full-time career, however, during that same period was farming his family’s fourth generation land in northeast Nebraska. He also operated his Christmas tree farm and grew black oil sunflowers for wild birdseed. Curt continues to raise corn, soybeans and alfalfa and runs a cow-calf herd.

Curt and his wife Donna have four children, Lauren, Taylor, Zachary and Benjamin. They are active in their church and St. Rose School in Crofton, where Donna teaches and their children attend classes.

Previously, the 1986 University of Nebraska animal science graduate wrote a weekly rural life column, developed a farm radio program and wrote books about farm direct marketing and farmers markets. He received media honors from the Nebraska Forest Service, Center for Rural Affairs and Northeast Nebraska Experimental Farm Association.

He wrote about the spiritual side of farming in his 2008 book, “Down to Earth: Celebrating a Blessed Life on the Land,” garnering a Catholic Press Association award.

Subscribe to receive top agriculture news
Be informed daily with these free e-newsletters

You May Also Like