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Column: Our future depends on wind farms

My family has been ranching in North Dakota since the 1880s. We've made our living off the land for more than 135 years, and I love this lifestyle. I hope someday my children will take over the ranch.

But I won't sugarcoat things, it's a hard way to earn a living. Margins are thin, and we're beholden to things far beyond our control, like changing commodity prices or poor weather.

So when I had the chance to lease some of my land for a wind farm, I jumped at the opportunity. This means we won't have to worry about being able to pass the ranch to the next generation. The lease payments we get will ensure our lifestyle.

This isn't just a paycheck. Older people can look forward to this income in retirement. For middle-aged ranchers with children, wind lease payments are a security net that allows them to upgrade operations or pay for college.

Landowners aren't the only ones who benefit from wind projects, whole communities do. Hundreds of workers, many of them local, get jobs building wind projects. During that time, they spend money in local businesses, giving the whole area a boost. And the wind technician positions needed keep projects running once they're built are well-paying jobs, giving young people good career options without having to leave home.

Wind projects also bring more financial resources to North Dakota's towns. Added revenue helps fix roads, improve schools and buy new ambulances.

Putting some numbers on these benefits shows just how much wind impacts North Dakota's economy. There are 3,000 wind jobs in the state, and ranchers get up to $10 million in lease payments every year for hosting turbines. Wind has brought over $4 billion into our economy so far, and continuing to grow wind power in North Dakota will only add to these numbers.

Unfortunately, our lawmakers are considering a bill that puts all of this at risk. They're proposing setbacks that would make building future wind farms much more difficult.

These measures don't make sense. North Dakotans already know firsthand this is a good thing. And we can look at places like Iowa, which generates 35 percent of its electricity with wind, to see we can continue using this God-given resource at much greater levels. Our lawmakers should remember our electricity system is part of a regional grid. That means if utilities decide they want more wind power it will get built, regardless of any arbitrary and excessive regulation in North Dakota. So our ranchers and communities will watch benefits flow to other states instead of ours.

North Dakota has a long history of taking advantage of its resources. Whether it's the coal in our ground or the wind that sweeps our plains, we should make use of all of it. Harnessing the wind in our state makes our communities stronger and sets our children up with a better future. Who could be against that?

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