As we are about to build our new barn, one of our biggest costs is in keeping stock tanks ice free here in Maine. Add in 10 more stock tanks at 1500 watts apiece, churning 24 hours a day, in the state with the highest electrical costs in the nation, and it is easy to see why we came up with a geothermal system that would keep our stock tanks ice free. It would even be cheap to do, so when we were approached about a Rural Alternative Energy Program I had the highest hopes.
Nope, we do not meet the cost requirements...we were too LOW in cost!
They loved the idea, they just did not like that it was not an off-the-shelf commercially available product, and cost $250 per water tank; we needed to be at least $10,000.
The thing of it was, they would gladly pay for an $80,000 windmill at our farm, or a host of other things, but my wife and I did not want to take advantage of tax-payers, we only wanted what we would rightfully use, and help us be productive and kick food onto the national food chain; no more, no less.
The kicker is, the reimbursement is only 25% so the farmers that are funded are the ones who really don't need it. Needless to say I was a bit agitated. Perhaps being up all night due to a blizzard and lambing season did not help, but I fired back a scathing email. It down right angers me. In the National Farm Bill there is only 1% that is available for conservation and so many are vying for it, it is silly to fund a program that continues to hurt low income farmers through the downward spiral that is the current electrical pay-per-killowatt system. Here is my response letter!
I understand; it is NOT okay, it is just that I have long understood the travesty of the current alternative energy situation. Until the way electrical usage is changed via the pay-per-killowatt system, no real change will come about.
Sadly, people like my Uncle who have exorbitant amounts of money to spend, qualify for cost-share programs and rebates, and obtain them, while the ones with low income are unable to due so. As his energy bills are drastically reduced, the financially struggling end up paying more per kilowatt since it costs Central Maine Power just as much to maintain the lines no matter how many kilowatts are pushed over them. With the Public Utilities Commission increasing electrical rates to compensate Central Maine Power to maintain their portion of the grid, those who can afford efficiency and alternative energy are motivated even to do so. With Central Power making even less money because of the reduced kilowatt usage, rates continue to climb yet again. Its a downward spiral leaving the fiscally strapped even more burdened; and yes small farmers especially.
I was hoping the REAP Program would help in ending that situation, but I can see its merely government bureaucracy at its worst teeming with overreaching mandates that hinder and not help. Due to the limited amount of funding for farmers as is, rather then fund a program that caters to those that can already pay for their energy costs, I will contact my congressmen to try and eliminate some over-reaching mandates of this program. To be frank, 25% is a pretty low implementation percentage, and until the REAP Program approaches similarities like the USDA-NRCS Program, it will not help those farmers who need the most help.
Sadly I lacked the time already put into this endeavor as I am super busy, however now it will take even more time as I try to get this program defunded through the proper channels. This is not about not being funded for a particular project, it is about a program that does not help those whom congress intended it for.
I understand your frustration. The programs all have lots of hoops and seem decadent for someone just wanting to get shtuff done. I've been complaining about it as: you can't throw dollars at a problem; you gotta throw brains. Just thinking: if you could value your time into the dollar value of the project, to bring it up, since you will be working on it. You could then donate that $ from your time to a cause you think worthy. Maybe also look into the conservation innovation grant, if your looking for funds. I have just heard of it, so it might be as painful. On the other hand, making the changes yourself now might pay for its self faster than any government program, and save the headache. That's typically how I roll anyway. I can put up a green house faster than I can fill out grant paperwork and I can make back the money I spent on it faster than the government will turn around and pay for it. And, I can do it my red-neck way.
I have done well on some grants, and some low interest loans over the last few years, but also hit some serious road blocks too. I don't mind entertaining government programs if they mesh well with my farm plan, but around here there are three types of farmers:
1. Those that swear off all help from the Government, or at least say they do. (Since all farm subsidies are searchable by town residence, it is easy to find out who is lying).
2. The farmers that aren't really farming, they are constantly changing their farms so they can get grants
3. The farms like mine that occasional use a government program grants, or low interest loans, to achieve their farm goals
Lately I cannot seem to get anywhere. I had an erosion issue on my farm that was so bad soil was washing into the road and I had to take a loader and scoop up the topsoil so cars would not bottom out on it. That is pretty bad. I called the NRCS for an Equip Grant to convert the corn field to permanent grass and they never even showed up to look at it. Because of that it was never ranked and so got bypassed that first year. My wife is on the board and knew they were flush with cash in that fund, but I missed the appeal deadline that year. It automatically rolled over into the next year of funding, and they dismissed that too. Two years and they never even showed up to see what the issue was. I was MAD! I filed a lawsuit to the National Appeals Board and had my hearing last month and should have a decision soon. 2 stinking years and they never even showed up to see the problem, soil erosion was what they were founded on. I presented a good case, and while it is a bit early to tell, the fact that the NRCS wants to come out next month and see the issue pretty much says what the decision was. It can be retro acted and that is what I will expect will happen.
The NRCS is supposed to be supervised by the Soil and Water Conservation Districts which was part of Congress mandate when they established the NRCS. Every other state abides by this law, but not the Maine NRCS. The State Conservationist hates being overseen by a local governing body, but that was in the previous administration. It might be a bit different now.
The first and last time we went to the Soil and Water Conservation office they gave us horrible advice on what to do with our eroding creek. There may be helpful and useful information from them, but we did not get it and have not attempted any other contact since then. I've been doing my own research and implementing strategies which seem to be working (so far). I think the advice they gave us would only have resulted in worse erosion.