News Column

Farmers hear about energy programs

June 11, 2014

By Lana Bellamy, The Daily Independent, Ashland, Ky.



June 11--COALTON -- Though funding for agriculture seems sparse for eastern Kentucky, local farmers were shown Monday that state and federal funding options are available. But first, they must take the first step and apply for it.

Bill McCloskey, director of financial services in the Governor's Office for Agricultural Policy, talked about grant and loan opportunities for farming projects on the state side. Scott Maas, rural energy coordinator with the U.S. Department of Agriculture Rural Development, explained federal options.

Nearly 20 local farmers showed up at the Franks Building to participate in the discussion and learn how to cut costs on their farms.

A large part of McCloskey's presentation about the GOAP's 2014 On-Farm Energy Efficiency and Investment Program encouraged farmers to think of ideas for alternative energy projects that would use economical sources, like solar, wind and biomass.

The largest funding portion of the grant program is set aside for the Beginning Farmer program, which is designed to assist farmers with the startup costs of farming.

The other portions of the grant program are focused on assisting energy projects. "One of the places we would like to see more participation is eastern Kentucky. It's the reason we're here tonight," he said.

McCloskey and Maas said the most feasible alternative energy sources for this end of the state are solar and biomass.

McCloskey offered an example of a greenhouse project in Jessamine County the GOAP helped fund that used a biomass burner. He said the farm saved $4,433.

"Like any government agency, we have limited funds in which to assist you with," McCloskey said. "With the GOAP, our funding programs are designed to help our farmers transition out of tobacco and into other enterprises."

Maas discussed the USDA'sRenewable Energy for America Program that helps fund on-farm energy projects similar to the GOAP, but takes it a step further in also offering assistance to small businesses.

The goal is to create more energy-efficient farms and businesses in rural areas. If a farm or business is interested in applying for the grant or loan to convert energy systems, Maas said an on-site energy auditor would survey the property and offer the most cost-effective solutions.

Maas said solar energy is trending throughout Kentucky, especially in the western region.

"Personally, I don't see why solar energy can't work for eastern Kentucky just like it does western Kentucky," he said. "All you have to do is make sure the panels are kept out of the shade."

The crowd offered few questions for the two presenters, but local farmer Paul Wiley voiced his reluctance to apply for loans.

"I'm really hoping I can do what I need without having to borrow any money," he said. "I come from the old school where you pay for something with what you got."

Other farmers seemed hesitant, but Maas said he encouraged farmers to apply for the money that will become available in 2015.

With the passage of the recent farm bill, Maas said the grant program will expand to nearly $2 million, which is double the usual funds.

Sen. Robin Webb, D-Grayson, who was in attendance, told farmers Frankfort politicians want eastern Kentucky go get their share of farming assistance, but they need more people to take the initiative to apply for the grants.

For more information about the programs, visit the USDA Rural Development website at rurdev.usda.gov/ky, or visit the GOAP website at agpolicy.ky.gov.

LANA BELLAMY can be reached at lbellamy@dailyindependent.com or (606) 326-2653. For Twitter updates, follow @lanabellamy_DI.

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(c)2014 The Daily Independent (Ashland, Ky.)

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Source: Daily Independent (Ashland, KY)


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