Senate Approves New Dairy Farm Energy Grant Program

George Winner

June 09, 2008

Albany, N.Y.--The New York State Senate has unanimously approved legislation sponsored by Senator George Winner (R-C-I, Elmira), chairman of the Legislative Commission on Rural Resources, to establish a "Dairy Farm Improved Energy Efficiency Loan Fund."

The new loan fund, which would be administered by the Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC) and the New York State Energy and Research Development Authority (NYSERDA), would provide state grants and low-interest loans to help dairy farmers undertake energy efficiency projects and purchase cutting-edge energy technologies.

"Energy is one of a dairy farm's highest costs," said Winner. "This program could help farmers enhance energy efficiency or take advantage of new technology. It would be another wise investment in the future of upstate dairy farms, businesses, and communities."

Winner joined his Senate colleagues to secure $30 million in immediate financial assistance to New York’s dairy farmers in the 2007-08 state budget. Last year’s "Dairy Investment Act" provided assistance to approximately 5,000 milk producers statewide. The action was taken in response to extremely low commodity prices that, over the past few years, have combined with high energy and feed costs, labor shortages, and flooding to produce a devastating economic impact on many milk producers.

Additionally, low milk prices, an outdated federal price control system, and the escalating costs associated with running family farms have resulted in unprecedented losses for dairy farms throughout New York.

Winner said that energy costs are particularly burdensome. Utilities have a harder time servicing farms because of their remote locations at the end of the electric grid infrastructure.

According to Winner, legislation to provide state assistance to help more dairy farmers utilize high-efficiency lighting, pumping and cooling equipment, and other energy management systems, could result in significant energy savings and increased milk yields. It would also help accelerate the development of New York's energy services industry, providing new and expanded job opportunities. Strengthening the energy systems of individual farms and developing micro-grids in remote areas will enhance the overall reliability of the electric system.

The legislation must be approved by the Assembly and signed by Governor David Paterson before becoming law. It is currently in the Assembly Agriculture Committee.