TUE AM News: Wisconsin, other Midwest states announce plans to form hydrogen coalition; Ag groups to use USDA funding for variety of conservation projects

— Gov. Tony Evers and six other governors have announced plans to form the Midwestern Hydrogen Coalition, creating a framework for expanding “clean hydrogen” production in the region. 

Participating states include Wisconsin, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Michigan, Minnesota and Ohio. Governors of each have signed a memorandum of understanding detailing the coalition’s goals and potential benefits to participating states. 

A release from the guv’s office shows hydrogen can be used as a clean fuel source, and is referred to as “clean hydrogen” when produced through methods that create “little to no” greenhouse gases. It notes clean hydrogen could play a key role in decarbonizing the state’s transportation, agriculture and manufacturing industries. 

“I’m proud to join this coalition of fellow Midwestern governors working together to accelerate clean hydrogen production, foster economic development, and lower costs, while reducing emissions across Wisconsin and our entire region,” Evers said in the release. 

According to the MOU, the Midwest already has established infrastructure for distribution and storage of ammonia, which has high capacity for hydrogen storage. The document notes the existing ammonia distribution network — used by the agriculture sector — is “arguably the most extensive hydrogen distribution network in the country.” 

The federal Bipartisan Infrastructure Law includes $8 billion for the U.S. Department of Energy to fund Regional Clean Hydrogen Hubs, and the Midwestern Hydrogen Coalition will consider applying for funding through the law this fall, the Evers release shows. Plus, the recently signed federal Inflation Reduction Act has a tax credit aimed at making clean hydrogen production more cost-competitive with other production methods. 

Coalition members say they will coordinate to develop a “regional hydrogen ecosystem” by choosing a metric for defining clean hydrogen, identifying each state’s production pathways, evaluating related infrastructure and workers, determining the “most promising end-uses” and more. 

See the MOU: https://content.govdelivery.com/attachments/WIGOV/2022/09/17/file_attachments/2273049/Final%20Midwest%20H2%20Coalition%20MOU_signed.pdf 

See the release: https://www.wispolitics.com/2022/gov-evers-joins-fellow-midwest-governors-in-announcing-regional-coalition-to-promote-clean-hydrogen-production 

— The Edge Dairy Farmer Cooperative says $50 million in new federal funding could support efforts to gather data on current farm conservation practices, test new technologies and develop financial planning initiatives.    

A group of 14 organizations led by Edge last week announced they’re receiving $50 million from the USDA through the federal agency’s Partnerships for Climate-Smart Commodities program. In an email, Edge spokesman Travis Senn explained specific projects being funded have yet to be determined, and will vary based on the farmers and partners involved. 

“We are looking to partners to develop project concepts to test conservation practices and financial rewards for farmers that make sense for their specific situations,” he told WisBusiness.com. 

Some of the partners in the group include global dairy co-op Agropur, the American Sugarbeet Growers Association, the U.S. Beet Sugar Association, Farmers for Sustainable Food, The Nature Conservancy in Wisconsin, Clean Wisconsin, Southwest Wisconsin Technical College, DATCP, UW-Madison Extension and others. 

“We are pleased with the agency’s level of support, and now we will work with them to determine what parts of the grant they are most interested in funding,” Senn said. “Everything is still on the table and up for negotiation at this point. We hope to work out the details in the coming months to get our projects off the ground soon.” 

Projects will focus on production and supply chains for the dairy and beet sugar industries, testing “different models to determine what is the most effective for environmental and financial farm sustainability,” Senn explained. 

He also noted projects will use an existing framework developed by the nonprofit Farmers for Sustainable Food and other private and public sector partners that helps guide farmers’ conservation efforts. 

“This effort will help expand projects that are based on the framework — a critical component being that they are farmer-focused,” he said. “It’s all about supporting farmers and their efforts in conservation to help them on their sustainability journey, both environmentally and financially.” 

Lauren Brey, managing director of Farmers for Sustainable Food, says customers want to know the food they buy is being produced in an environmentally sensitive way. 

“Demonstrating this starts at the farm but also has implications for businesses throughout the supply chain,” she said in a release from Edge. “We are excited to have a greater opportunity through the USDA grant to empower our farmers.”

See more from other partners in the effort: https://www.wisbusiness.com/2022/partners-usda-climate-smart-grant-opens-opportunities-to-build-on-farmers-success/ 

— Lubar & Co. President and CEO David Lubar is calling for business leaders in the state to encourage civic engagement among their employees. 

Lubar recently addressed members of the Milwaukee Rotary Club as a representative of Wisconsin Business Leaders for Democracy, a nonpartisan group of executives advocating for “fair and safe elections” in the state. 

“What I’m talking about is not really about politics, or who to vote for,” he said. “It’s not about gerrymandering, it’s not about drop boxes, it’s not about the Wisconsin Elections Commission … This is about facilitating greater participation in our democracy.” 

He said this group was formed due to business leaders feeling concerned about the state of American democracy, and the economic importance of stability in elections. 

“Strong and secure democracy is good for our economy, which means it’s good for our business. It’s the basis for stable and reliable markets,” he said, noting 45 of the 50 largest companies in the world are based in countries with elected governments. 

He urged business leaders to encourage their employees to make a voting plan and provide information on how and where to register, as well as rules on voter IDs. He said companies can host voter registration days in the office, give workers time off to vote, and encourage them to volunteer as poll workers. Lubar highlighted one such program from Milwaukee’s ManpowerGroup called Operation Civic Duty. 

See more from this group: https://www.wibusinessfordemocracy.org/about 

Watch a video of Lubar’s presentation: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vkwnSPY7LAw 

— With this year’s flu season just over the horizon, an expert with UW Health is warning of low immunity levels in Wisconsin and urging state residents to get vaccinated against the virus. 

Dr. Jim Conway is the medical director of immunization programs at UW Health and a professor of pediatrics at the UW School of Medicine and Public Health in Madison. In remarks provided by UW Health, he noted only about 40 percent of Wisconsin residents got a flu shot in 2021. That’s compared to between 50 and 55 percent in a typical year, he said. 

“We had sort of record low numbers of people getting vaccinated, plus record low rates of flu over the last couple years because of all the stuff we were doing to mitigate the pandemic, we also mitigated a lot of other respiratory viruses,” he said. “And so because of that, this year we are really quite concerned that there is a relatively low level of community immunity against influenza.” 

Department of Health Services officials say it’s too early to tell what flu vaccination rates will look like this year, as the flu vaccine only recently became available. 

UW Health notes flu vaccine appointments are available statewide, with everyone aged 6 months and older eligible for a shot. Conway highlights two main reasons to get vaccinated: getting protection from severe infections, and reducing the risk of spreading the virus to others — especially those with weaker immune systems.  

“The rates of immunization in people over age 65 is very, very high, but they don’t always get the full response because of what’s happened to their immune system over time,” he said. “Your immune system sort of wears out as you get older and so those people get partial protection. So anything we can do to protect other people from getting exposed … is going to then help them.” 

See the release: https://www.wisbusiness.com/2022/uw-health-influenza-vaccinations-down-more-than-10-statewide/ 

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