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Diversifying land use with wind power

(Wednesday, Nov. 20, 2002 -- CropChoice news) -- Dan McGuire, director of the American Corn Growers Foundation's Wealth From The Wind program, gave the following presentation yesterday at the Ohio Wind Power Conference in Dublin, OH.

It's a real pleasure to be here with all of you today and to be promoting wind power, one of the most exciting new home-grown, clean energy sources to present itself to America in years. A special thanks to Bill Spratley and everyone at Green Energy Ohio for getting us involved in this first ever, statewide Ohio wind energy conference.

On behalf of the American Corn Growers Foundation, the American Corn Growers Association, and our Wealth From The Wind educational program, I'm privileged to moderate this key panel on Ohio Wind Policy Issues and Incentives. Our panel includes Janine Migden, Attorney at Law with the firm of Hahn, Loeser and Parks; Judy Jones, Manager of the Energy Loan Fund; and Ryan Wiser, Staff Research Associate with the Lawrence Berkley National Laboratory. More on their topics when I introduce each speaker.

I'm going to discuss some of the energy provisions in the new farm law, but first a little background on Wealth From The Wind. The American Corn Growers Foundation is always looking for ways to bring about diversity of land use and create new opportunities to stimulate greater farm income to benefit both farmers and rural communities. We took a look at wind power development and decided that it is an ideal fit to meet that objective. However, there was a void in terms of agriculture producer involvement and a need to bring farm voices and farm organization leadership into the development agenda for wind power generation. That's why we developed Wealth From The Wind. It's aimed at developing, facilitating, enhancing and expanding the positive economic and environmental potential of wind power for small and medium size farmers and the rural communities connected to them.

We use the leadership and resources of both the American Corn Growers Foundation and Association to reach out and work with a wide variety of interests. Recently, we formed the American Agricultural Wind Coalition, an initiative that will bring many of the nation's farm and commodity associations together to speak with one voice on various issues surrounding wind development. We are also the primary national farm entity working directly with the WindPowering America office of the U.S. Department of Energy and NREL. A special acknowledgement and thanks to Phil Dougherty who heads up that program for the DOE in Washington, DC and Larry Flowers with NREL in Colorado, two top notch leaders and hard chargers that keep the electricity and excitement in wind power.

To further the wind powering America agenda, we need to get the positive word out to as many farmers, utilities, investors and government officials as possible, and to the overall general public. To that end, we are in the process of developing a national wind resource guide and we are looking into the feasibility of producing a small wind systems brochure geared to the many individual on-farm uses that can be made of wind power. We believe that the more information that can be developed and disseminated, by as many groups as possible the better.

One of the most promising recent developments aimed at encouraging farmers to get involved in wind power is Title IX, the Energy Title in the F arm Security and Rural Investment Act of 2002 (typically known as the Farm B ill). A quick review of the various sections includes the following significant areas of interest for farmers, investors and wind developers:

  • Section 9005 - Energy Audits: This section provides for competitive grants to state energy or agriculture departments, regional or state based energy organizations, Land Grant colleges, rural electric cooperatives and nonprofit organizations. Plus, any other organization as determined by the Secretary of Agriculture. Grants are authorized for the purpose of assisting farmers, ranchers and small rural business to become more energy efficient and in using renewable technologies and resources. The recipients must pay at least 25 percent of the cost of the audit.
  • Section 9006 -- Renewable Energy Systems and Energy Efficiency Improvements - ($115 Million Available in Loans, Loan Guarantees and Grants: This section is designed to assist farmers, ranchers and rural small businesses in purchasing renewable energy systems and making energy efficiency improvements. Grants cannot exceed 25 percent of the cost of the activity and a grant and loan cannot exceed 50 percent of the cost of the activity. Interest rates are fixed for the term of the loan and equal to the rate charged on U.S. Treasury securities of comparable maturity on the date the loan is approved. Reminder: We all need to remember that that Congress has not made the appropriations for Sections 9005 and 9006 yet so we all need to keep working on Congress to get these programs fully funded.
  • Section 9007 - Hydrogen and Fuel Technologies: This section requires that the Secretary of Agriculture and the Secretary of Energy shall enter into a Memorandum of Understanding under which they will cooperate in the application of hydrogen and fuel cell technology programs for rural communities and agricultural producers. We think this section could encourage opportunities for hybrid energy systems, including wind power.
  • Section 9008 - Biomass Research Development ($75 million): This section reauthorizes and funds the Biomass Research and Development Act of 2000 (P.L. 106-224) through FY 2007. Again, this could encourage hybrid systems including wind.
  • Section 9010 - Continuation of CCC Bioenergy Program ($204 million): Again, while this section does not mention wind power specifically, we believe that creative and forward thinking developers might make this section work in tandem with the biodiesel and fuel grade ethanol provisions to make hybrid systems work better by including wind power units.

Farm Bill Sections outside the Energy Title:

  • Section 6401 (a) (2) -Value Added Agriculture Product Marketing Development Grants ($240 Million - $40 Million Per Year): This sections provides for competitive grants to individual producers or producer owned cooperatives to develop business plans for viable marketing opportunities for value added agricultural products, or to develop strategies that are intended to create marketing opportunities in emerging markets. The maximum grant amount is $500,000 and a total of $40 million in CCC funds are available per year. I don't know if wind power projects fit this definition of value added ag products but in my opinion they sure should. Can you think of a better value added product than renewable electricity generated by a farmer-owned wind farm that can create marketing opportunities for electricity in the always emerging and constantly growing energy market? This section needs to be looked at closely.
  • Section 2101 - Biomass Harvesting and Wind Turbines on CRP Contract Acres: This provision is an original ACGA initiative and it authorizes the Secretary of Agriculture to permit the managed harvesting of biomass on CRP (Conservation Reserve Program) acres (at a reduced rental payment). This section also allows the installation of wind turbines on CRP acreage, without loss of CRP contract benefits. In using this provision the Secretary shall determine the number and location, taking into account (a) location, size and other physical characteristics of the land and (b) the extent to which the land contains wildlife and wildlife habitat, and the purpose of the CRP contract.

Those are the various energy sections in the new farm bill that can help facilitate renewable energy development, including wind power. The American Corn Growers Association was actively involved in pushing these sections on Capitol Hill when the farm bill was being developed. So, you can see the complimentary roles that our Foundation and our Association play in seeing that wind is a key ingredient in the energy mix that will power America into the future. I can't take the time needed to cover all the other areas, like the Renewable Portfolio Standard, the new Energy Bill and the monitoring, implementation and funding of the Energy Title of the farm bill that ACGA CEO Larry Mitchell and ACGA Director of Government Relations David Senter are constantly working on in Washington, DC, but suffice it to say that they're harnessing lots of energy to work on wind power.

Again, thank you to Bill Spratley and Green Energy Ohio for including the ACGF and ACGA. We're thrilled to be here as a co-host with DOE, the Ohio Farmers Union, the Ohio Farm Bureau and all the other groups hosting this event. Now lets move on and hear from the other speakers on our panel and their important topics.