DEER GROVE – Count crop dusters among those who want more regulation of wind farms.
Les Cady of Cady Aerial Spray in Deer Grove has asked the Whiteside County Board to consider farmers who want to use crop-dusting services when it looks at changes to its wind farm ordinance.
Crop dusters – also known as aerial applicators – are those who use airplanes to spray pesticides and fertilizers on crops. Farmers sometimes find crop dusting more efficient than spraying on the ground.
In a letter to the county, Cady said the current ordinance falls short of protecting landowners’ right to have their crops treated by aircraft.
If wind turbines are allowed under that ordinance, tens of thousands of acres of farmland may become untreatable, he said. That’s because the planes need enough room to safety navigate and make turns, he said.
If wind turbines go up, companies that contract for farmers’ crops may move production elsewhere, Cady warned.
“That would be a terrible loss to farmers who contract to grow for these companies and to the local economy,” Cady wrote in the letter.
He recommends the county go with a setback of 1 mile from a neighboring property line for each turbine.
Now, Whiteside and Lee counties have a setback of 1,400 feet – about a quarter of a mile – between turbines and houses.
Cady also proposes that wind energy companies reimburse farmers for any expenses of crop dusting that are increased as the result of nearby turbines.
The state and national agricultural aviation associations have expressed concerns about the effect of wind turbines on crop dusting.
The National Agricultural Aviation Association discourages the placement of wind turbines on prime farmland in a way that may prevent crop dusters from doing their work. It wants turbines near farmland to be well-lit and have markings.
Ireland-based Mainstream Renewable Energy is planning a new wind farm in Bureau, Lee and Whiteside counties. The Whiteside portion would be just north of Deer Grove, population 48, 11 miles south of Rock Falls.
Keith Bolin, who works in Mainstream’s Walnut office, said his company is willing to discuss the situation with aerial applicators.
“We look forward to working with any aerial applicator to make it safer. That would be our goal. Hopefully, it would be achievable,” he said.
Bolin, who farms in Bureau County, said he uses crop dusters.
“The reason farmers do aerial spraying is to increase yield and profitability,” he said. “The reason farmers put wind turbines on their farms is to increase net profitability. The common goal is to keep farmers and their families staying in farming.”
Mainstream Renewable Energy publicizing efforts
Mainstream Renewable Energy, which is planning a wind farm in Whiteside, Lee and Bureau counties, is trying to get the word out about its plans.
That effort includes an occasional newsletter inserted in the Walnut Leader, a Bureau County newspaper. In that newsletter, it provides an update on wind issues in the three counties.
It also features landowners who have entered agreements to allow turbines on their land as part of the company’s wind farm, known formally as the Green River Wind Farm Project.
The last edition included a profile on John Martin, the project manager.
“I pride myself on being honest and forthright with everyone who is involved in a project,” he said in the newsletter. “They deserve to know how the project is progressing and how they can help move if forward.”
He also said Mainstream wants to “create success” for all those involved in projects. That includes building strong relationships and opening dialogue, he said.
The company has distributed four such newsletters.
It also has created a project website, www.greenriverwindfarm.com. The company’s Walnut office can be reached at 815-379-2784. The office at 108 Jackson St. It is open from 9 to 11:45 a.m. Monday through Friday.
The company is expected to apply for permits from the counties in the fall.
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