Randolph County is luring agricultural industry that faced opposition in Delaware County: an ethanol refinery, industrialized hog farms and now a utility-scale wind farm.
In 2006, opponents buried spikes in an unharvested corn field, damaging a combine; hid fencing in corn stalks in another attempt to damage farm equipment; and drove cars through farm fields to protest Delaware County’s proposed Ag Biovision Park, which was trying to attract an ethanol refinery and which opponents feared would also become home to so-called hog factory farms.
Last year, opponents drove a proposed E.ON Climate & Renewables wind farm out of Delaware County, circulating petitions, handing out pin-back buttons reading “Grow corn not wind turbines” and selling yard signs bearing the message “Save our homes.”
“Certainly in Randolph County, we understand the high-level importance of agricultural-type business,” Bruce Hosier, director of the Randolph County Economic Development Corp., told The Star Press last week.
He credits former Gov. Mitch Daniels with re-emphasizing the importance of agriculture to Indiana’s economy.
Randolph County has succeeded in diversifying its agricultural industry.
The Cardinal Ethanol refinery itself is diversified, producing not only 100 million gallons of ethanol per year but also 320,000 tons of dried distillers grain along with corn oil and carbon dioxide used to produce carbonated soft drinks, Hosier said. Cardinal Ethanol buys 36 million bushels of corn a year.
The market value of agricultural products sold in Randolph County increased 100 percent between 2007 and 2012. Crop and livestock sales in the county rose from $113.7 million to $226.9 million in that period.
During that time frame, Randolph County’s inventory of hogs and pigs increased from 55,443 to 177,605, which ranks third in the state and 99th among all 3,079 counties in the United States.
Farmers also will benefit from the new Headwaters Wind Farm under construction in southern Randolph County. The wind farm will make annual lease payments ranging from $8,000 to $12,000 to nearly 200 farmers and other land owners.
In addition, the wind farm will make $10 million in payments in lieu of property taxes to county government over the next decade. The county will leverage that money for more economic development, Hosier said. After the 10 years, the wind farm will pay property taxes on the project for the rest of its life.
Besides creating wealth and property tax revenue, agriculture will also create “employment opportunities and permanent residents who not only work here but live here and raise a family here and become part of the Randolph County community,” Hosier said. “Permanent residents will help grow this county.”
In Delaware County, opponents claim industrial agriculture drives residents away by ruining the quality of life.
Randolph County is also home to a solid-waste landfill with an agriculture-related name: Randolph Farms.
“Certainly quality of life is an important factor, but we believe there has been a good balance here in Randolph County,” Hosier said.
State, federal and local regulations are in place to protect the quality of life against the nuisances of industrial agriculture, he said.
|Wind Watch relies entirely
on User Funding