In a remote part of Bill Wineland’s farm is a pasture that cows never graze. It is not because of lack of forage, but rather a lack of water.
The High Point cattleman thought of putting in a well system. However, the rural electric cooperative wanted $3,500 to bring electric lines across the pastures to the system. Then there was a base charge of $25 per month for the electric, even if cattle were not using the system.
Wineland thought the cost was just too high. “You have to make your farm the most efficient it can be,” he says. “Everything adds to the bottom line.” So, he allowed the pasture to stand idle for a number of years.
• Farmers use cost-share to improve farm energy efficiency.
• State had 1,600 applications for grants totaling $6.3 million.
• GPS systems are most requested item of program.
Then one day while surfing the Internet, Wineland ran across a Missouri Department of Natural Resources Division of Energy program. Energize Missouri Agriculture is a cost-share grant program, where the department offered energy-efficiency grants to agriculture operations statewide to improve efficiency and incorporate renewable energy equipment.
He applied for a frost-free livestock watering system powered by solar panels. “I was thrilled when the approval came through,” he says.
Wineland is happy with the system, which has been in operation for a year. “The solar power works great,” he says. “With the frost-free system, the cows always have fresh, cool, clean water.”
Wineland’s was just one application turned in to the Energize Missouri Agriculture program. According to Roger Korenberg, an environmental engineer at the Division of Energy, the state awarded projects totaling $6.3 million.
The funding came from the 2009 American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, or ARRA. A major portion of that money was to fund existing or new energy-saving programs administered by state energy offices.
For years, the state has been working with homeowners, business and industries to save energy and money, but according to Korenberg, the department had not directed a lot of attention to agricultural energy efficiency. He began working with Soil and Water Conservation and other agriculture leaders to get ideas for the agriculture stimulus program.
“We developed a list of more than 60 proposals,” Korenberg says. “We realized that many farmers already knew what kind of energy-saving equipment they needed, they just needed an additional financial incentive to get the equipment purchased and installed.”
Farmers were reimbursed up to 75% of the purchase cost of qualifying energy-efficient equipment and systems, up to $5,000 per applicant. Some of those projects included: solar-powered water pumps; solar-powered fences; insulated or frost-free waterers; GPS for field equipment; irrigation upgrades; improvements in dairy, swine and poultry facilities; new or upgraded grain dryers; lighting systems with timers and motion sensors; and conservation-tillage equipment.
Korenberg originally estimated just 600 applications and spending $3 million. “We soon became aware that we would easily exceed these estimates,” he says. “We proposed to allocate more money to the program so we could fund all valid applications.”
When the program wrapped last year, the state awarded just over 1,600 applications totaling nearly $6.3 million.
Clyde Hesemann turned to the program because of the opportunity to make old grain bins more efficient.
Most of his grain-bin equipment on his Owensville farm dates back to 1978. “We were either wasting time and money repairing dryers, or wasting time waiting for the bin to unload.”
So he replaced four dryers. “These really move air,” he says. “It costs less to run these than the old ones.”
In addition, he replaced augers. He finds that it saves him roughly 40 minutes for each load. “Our truck driver never complains now, and it saves us from just standing around.”
Hesemann admits that there is no way he could make these types of improvements without the cost-share. “It is one of those things where you have to decide where to invest that last dollar. If you can get more with it through a cost-share, then you will invest in upgrading.”
The most popular type of equipment requested through the program was GPS units for farm equipment.
More than 700 applications were made for GPS units, Korenberg says. He says crop farmers reported that adding GPS eliminated overlapping, which saves on fuel, chemicals, energy — and ultimately, money.
Korenberg would like to do more for Missouri’s agriculture producers, but the financial well has run dry.
“We are hoping to show that even though there is no longer financial assistance, energy efficiency can pay for itself,” he says.
He says his department continues to receive comments from farmers who took part in the program. “There has been nothing but positive feedback on the program,” he says. “I have really enjoyed working with and talking to them.”
Korenberg says he is always available to talk with farmers on ways to improve energy efficiency in their operations.
“They have to look at their own system to see where there is energy expense, and then tackle the biggest area.”