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WI Farmers: Saving Money and Helping the Environment

November 9, 2011

SPRING VALLEY, Wis. - Increasing numbers of Wisconsin farmers are cutting their power bills and reducing their carbon footprints by switching to alternative sources of energy.

Harriet Behar, an organic specialist with the Midwest Organic and Sustainable Education Service (MOSES), says farmers use a lot of energy in producing food.

"From grinding feed to heating hot water in a milk-house to just cleaning grain, fixing machinery - all kinds of things that are done on farms that use energy, and they pay pretty hefty electric bills."

A typical monthly electric bill for the average farm can run $300 to $400. Behar says she is seeing a trend of farmers using several forms of alternative energy.

"Solar photovoltaics for electricity; wind for electricity; and then solar hot-water heating, and biodiesel, where they grow a crop and use that as fuel."

MOSES, Behar says, is involved in helping farmers make the transition to cleaner forms of energy.

"We've had workshops at our Organic University and also at the Organic Farming Conference, both on looking at alternative sources of energy."

Some state and federal grants and programs are available to help farmers develop alternative energy sources, but Behar says many decide to do it on their own.

"Even without government funding, they have participated more in this, because they like making that investment in their infrastructure on the farm, for a kind of long-term sustainability."

An investment is involved in switching to a different energy source, Behar says, and the payback often is measured in years instead of months. However, she says, farmers - particularly today's organic farmers - are concerned about the environmental benefits of alternative energy, such as cleaner air and water, and are willing to make the change.

Tim Morrissey, Public News Service - WI