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An answer is blowin' in the wind

(Monday, May 16, 2005 -- CropChoice news) --

1. American Corn Growers co-sponsor North America's largest ever wind conference
2. Farm and Food: An answer is blowin' in the wind

1. American Corn Growers co-sponsor North America's largest ever wind conference

Dan McGuire (402) 770-5237
Larry Mitchell (202) 255-0990
David Senter (202) 331-4348

DENVER, MAY 16, 2005---The American Corn Growers Foundation (ACGF) and the American Corn Growers Association (ACGA), through their Wealth From The Wind program, are a major sponsor of WINDPOWER 2005 this week in Denver, Colo. WINDPOWER 2005 is expected to be the largest wind energy event ever held in North America with as many as four thousand expected to attend.

"ACGF is proud to be an American Wind Energy Association (AWEA) member and play a lead role as an agricultural organization that long ago identified the importance of wind energy, not just for the future of the U. S. economy and American consumers, but also as a renewable, sustainable and new cash crop for farmers," said Dan McGuire, ACGF Chief Executive Officer. "Given the potential of wind energy as a new income stream it is no surprise that ninety percent of U.S. corn farmers support the development of wind energy.

Overwhelming corn farmer support for wind energy was confirmed by a 2004 nationwide survey carried out for the ACGF and funded by a grant from the W.K. Kellogg Foundation. Additionally, Wealth From The Wind (WFTW) outreach work is funded by The Energy Foundation, Whole Systems Foundation and the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL), all facilitating our programís success."

McGuire praised the Wind Powering America (WPA) program of the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) for their work to promote wind energy in rural areas. "Farmers and rural America truly appreciate the work of WPA. I am extremely impressed by the excellent job that DOE and NREL do in providing educational resources to farmers and rural communities," said McGuire. "The people at DOE and NREL carrying out the WPA program provide a wealth of expertise, information and resources, from educational brochures to technical support, which our program and other WPA partners disseminate and use across the country. I salute them for their commitment and dedication toward making wind energy a major component of the U.S. renewable energy portfolio mix. The WPA, AWEA and our Wealth From The Wind program will create an unlimited future for wind energy if the correct policies are promoted by the Administration and adopted by Congress."

The ACGA led the effort that created Section 9006, the Energy Title of the 2002 farm law, which provides grants to farmers for renewable energy projects, including wind. Larry Mitchell, ACGA CEO, attending WINDPOWER 2005 in Denver said, "There are a number of wind energy initiatives moving in Congress that the ACGA is actively engaged in pushing forward on behalf of American farmers, including extension of the wind energy production tax credit (PTC). The wind PTC should be made permanent so as to avoid the on-again, off-again cycle of uncertainty related to financing wind projects." Mitchell emphasized that "Federal incentives have been used for decades to encourage fossil fuel development. It is critical that federal policy be used now to expedite wind energy development, by making the wind PTC a permanent law of the land."

ACGF and ACGA helped form the American Agricultural Wind Coalition (AAWC) in 2002 for the purpose of farm and rural groups working together on national wind energy policy. David Senter, AAWC National Coordinator said, "This coalition is made up of national and regional organizations; including the ACGA, the National Farmers Union, the National Grange, the Federation of Southern Cooperatives, the National Family Farm Coalition and others that represent nearly 350,000 farm and rural families. America needs this coalition now more than ever given our countryís critical need for new sources of renewable, sustainable energy."


2. Farm and Food: An answer is blowin' in the wind

By ALAN GUEBERT/Farm and Food Columnist

Standing atop the sweeping farm ridge 70 miles north of Berlin, the stiff wind off the Baltic Sea painted my cheeks apple red in minutes. Then, silent as a cat, the wind moved on to turn giant, triple blades of 20 or so wind turbines at a graceful 60 to 70 revs a minute.

Each soft swoosh of each blade, said the farm's manager in passable English, is the "sound of money. I own the wind. Wind is good crop."

American farmers are beginning to discover that wind is, indeed, a good crop. It's a reliable, sustainable cash generator waiting to be harvested. And, like the German manager noted, they already own it.

It's also nothing new; what American farm didn't sport a windmill a century ago? Now, however, wind drives more than water pumps. Now it drives electric generators that supply energy to 1.6 million American households.

That number will grow in 2005, according to the American Wind Energy Assoc. (www.awea.org), which estimates over 2000 megawatts of generating capacity, enough to supply 540,000 more households, will be added this year.

The growth, and the fat profits wind can generate for farmers and investors alike, has caught the attention of big boys like GE, Siemens, and Mitsubishi. Deere & Co., already an investment partner in several U.S. wind farms, will likely invest $100 to $200 million in community-based wind energy projects in the coming years.

The reasons are simple, says Dan McGuire, CEO of the American Corn Growers Association, which, along with the National Farmers Union, the National Family Farm Coalition and the National Grange, strongly supports farm-based wind energy.

"Wind energy is the lowest cost, completely sustainable energy form there is," he says, "and it's already on the farm. But unlike other farm commodities, you don't have to add on one acre, buy another tractor or wait for rain to become part of the $300 billion a year American electric market."

McGuire explains that farmers have two basic "models" to follow when investing in wind energy. "The first is to become landlords for outside investors who simply rent the land where the generation unit is built," he says.

While that's profitable -- some rent payments are as high as $1,500 per acre per year -- the second model, in which farmers become partners with investors, often is ten times more lucrative, says Dan Juhl, a wind energy pioneer in Pipestone, MN.

Juhl's small company, DanMar & Associates, teamed 250 farmers with non-farming investors (one is Deere), local banks and businesses to build a $13 million wind farm near Woodstock, MN.

Their goal -- now reality -- was what Juhl calls C-BED, Community-Based Energy Development. Its bedrock principle uses locally-created wind energy locally, instead of selling it to a grid-based major utility.

In C-BED, he explains, a typical farmer invested $10,000 to $15,000 in the project to become an equity player. Other non-ag investors put up the rest of the money. "The farmers receive about $30,000 per year in management fees to supply the site, read the electric meters and keep the roads to the sites in shape," Juhl notes.

Then, beginning Year 11 of the project, "the ownership flips, the farmers become the only owners; the investors are out," because the federal tax benefits of wind energy, currently 1.5-cents per kilowatt hour, expire.

"That means the farmer-owners can make $30,000 to $50,000 per year on their initial investment for the following 10 years."

And it's locked in. "All the loans are non-recourse," he notes.

It also means new jobs, new rural development and a new cash-generating, sustainable crop for a community pinched by $1.80-per-bushel corn today and the likelihood of falling farm program payments tomorrow.

The key to the future of wind energy and Juhl's hope to see his C-BED idea take root throughout rural America is the tiny federal 1.5-cent per kilowatt tax credit. It expires at the end of this year.

"It's crucial for Congress to renew it--and they should--because wind energy is the best farm program there was or will be."

Alan Guebert is a freelance agricultural journalist. He can be reached at agcomm@sbcglobal.net or Alan Guebert, 502 W. Fourth St., Delavan, IL 61734.