Farmers looking to be energy pioneers

Just as Schoharie County paved the way with the first agricultural district in the state, its farmer

Just as Schoharie County paved the way with the first agricultural district in the state, its farmers could blaze a trail by creating energy.

Farms are in a good position to be leaders in the alternative energy movement because they can grow soybeans and corn to make biodiesel and they have available land, said David Huse, vice president of the Schoharie County Farm Bureau.

“Most farmers don’t want to be energy consumers anymore,” he said. “They want to be producers.”

Huse spoke Saturday morning at the Schoharie County State of the County breakfast in Cobleskill, which focused on alternative energy and future possibilities for the county. It was presented by the Schoharie County Chamber of Commerce and attracted about 60 business and community leaders after being rescheduled from March 1.

In 1972, Schoharie County created the first agricultural district in the state with 8,234 acres in the towns of Esperance, Schoharie, Middleburgh, Fulton and Blenheim. Then it added Cobleskill, Broome and Conesville in 2004.

Rural Schoharie County could break new ground in the field of alternative energy, agreed William Cherry, county treasurer and budget officer.

“We’re small in Schoharie County, but we’re also leaders,” Cherry said.

Finding local sources of electricity is important, he said: “We already have enough dependence on foreign companies when we pull into a gas station.”

Cherry noted that if wind turbines, currently under discussion, are allowed, they should be assessed and taxed like any property, not subject to payment in lieu of taxes agreements. PILOT agreements are contracts between businesses and the municipality that aren’t subject to public review like tax rolls. And keeping wind turbines off the tax rolls might jeopardize the county’s claim on $1.6 million in taxes now paid by 17 utilities operating in the county, Cherry said.

“Imagine if your next-door neighbor was allowed to enter into a private contract or agreement to pay taxes,” Cherry said.

As alternative energy sources gain ground, county and business leaders will have to think about how that might change tourism, the county’s second largest industry after agriculture, said Jodie Rutt, executive director of the Schoharie County Chamber of Commerce.

“Ninety percent of energy consumption is expended on transportation,” Rutt said.

So when costs rise, people may not travel as much, she noted.

But alternative energy could provide tourism opportunities for the area if Schoharie County develops activities that are ecologically friendly, she said.

Categories: Schenectady County


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