Kentucky's legislature missed a great opportunity in this year's session to help farmers and rural communities.
As both a seventh-generation family farmer and a young farmer in Meade County, I know firsthand that energy has increasingly become an important and costly factor in our operation. We use energy every day on the farm. Energy is the fuel for our tractors and trucks. It is the electricity that runs our irrigators and refrigerators, and it lights our barns and homes. And these days especially, the cost of using energy adds up quickly.
Things are beginning to change. Increasingly, farmers like me see the opportunity to turn energy into an on-farm asset instead of being an off-farm liability.
For instance, on my farm we have used Kentucky Agricultural Development Fund grant money to power our irrigation pumps with solar energy.
Kentucky could do so much more to help farmers and rural communities offset energy costs. We could even turn energy into another farm product.
I, and the other members of Community Farm Alliance, endorsed House Bill 167 and House Bill 187, as a reasonable way to create new jobs in our rural communities and put Kentucky on track for a secure energy future.
HB 167 would have set modest goals for renewable energy use and energy efficiency in Kentucky similar to what 29 other states have already done. It also would have provided market incentives that help farmers like me become energy producers, making my family farm more profitable and Kentucky more energy secure.
HB 187 would have expanded Kentucky's net metering law from its 30-kilowatt limit to increase the ability of businesses, schools, local governments and farmers like me to produce their own power.
Net-metering allows Kentuckians to connect renewable energy systems like biomass, solar, wind or hydroelectric to the electric grid. When a system generates power, some or all of it is used on-site. Any excess flows back to the grid and is credited to the customer's account. Customers do not get paid for producing excess power.
That bill also would have allowed us to partner with investors to produce our own power, something that cash-strapped farmers could really use.
Regrettably, both bills once again received a "for discussion-only" hearing in the House Tourism Development and Energy Committee.
This missed opportunity is upsetting. As my generation looks to the future, too many of our leaders appear to be stuck in the past.