Corn, soy compete with wind for acres

August 21, 2008

turbine.jpgCrop scouts were busy in western Iowa on Wednesday trying to unlock the secrets of the upcoming soybean and corn harvest but they were ignoring another popular crop – wind.

Windmills are becoming increasingly common around the Corn Belt due to environmental concerns about traditional sources of power generation.

The wind harvest was taking up an unprecedented amount of acres this year in an area that some veteran scouts were referring to as this year’s garden spot of the Midwest in terms of potential corn and soybean yields.

In southern Minnesota, some growers were mulling offers from a wind farm company that had plans to erect windmills in that area. Some growers were being offered up to $5,000 a year to allow a windmill to be placed on their property, according to a farmer from that area who was taking part on the tour.

But the windmills can cause some problems, a farmer in west central Iowa told crop scouts. Dozens of windmills could be seen turning as the farmer told of some issues that might make farmers hesitate before collecting what appears to be easy money by renting out their acres to wind farms.

Maintenance workers need access to the windmills, so that can mean ploughing under more acres so a path can be built from the road to the windmill. Additionally, farmers have a harder time steering their machinery through fields if windmills sit right in the middle of prime crop producing territory. This can be particularly troublesome during years when poor conditions leave famers with only a short period of time to plant or harvest crops.

But still, the promise of cashing in on the green movement has a strong appeal to farmers, who like the promise of a steady annual payment.

The western Iowa scouts drove past a plant where windmill parts were waiting to be assembled in area fields. There were piles and piles of blades on the ground, suggesting that many area farmers were eager to take advantage of this new cash crop.

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