On Tuesday, the Missouri Farm Bureau legislative team traveled to Atchison County, in the far northwest corner of the state, to learn from local people about the introduction of wind power turbines to the area. President Blake Hurst organized the trip in coordination with Marshall Stewart, Vice Chancellor for Extension and Engagement at the University of Missouri, who brought an all-star group of leaders along to get a firsthand understanding of the situation.
President Hurst, who lives in Atchison County, had heard a wide variety of both concerns and praise for these projects from his friends and neighbors, including many MOFB members. After significant discussion at the Annual Meeting in December, MOFB members adopted the following policy regarding wind projects:
With the rapid growing wind energy industry, we strongly encourage responsible wind energy development including safe siting of wind turbines in accordance with manufacturers’ recommendations without imposing additional restrictions on neighbors.
We support the formation of an interagency task force to examine these and other issues regarding industrial wind energy complexes and report findings to state legislative committees of jurisdiction. In addition, we call for a statewide moratorium on any new wind energy developments until the task force makes their report.
As a first step to act on this policy, President Hurst asked Vice-Chancellor Stewart to come and talk with the people on the ground. Stewart did far better – he arranged a packed vanload of university leaders. UM System Vice President for Research and Economic Development Mark McIntosh joined the Deans of the School of Law, College of Engineering, and College of Human Environmental Sciences, and high-level representatives from the College of Agriculture, Food and Natural Resources and College of Business. This interdisciplinary group wanted to hear from all sides of a very complex issue in order to seek ways the University and Extension can provide research, resources and leadership for Missourians.
The group visited the 73-turbine, 146-MW Farmers City wind farm operated by Iberdrola, a company based in Spain, and stopped at the local headquarters of the new 150-turbine, 300-MW Rock Creek project run by Enel, an Italian company, which is the largest wind farm in Missouri. Afterwards, about 20 local leaders met the group for lunch. Several individuals shared their perspective, both positive and negative, including the Superintendent of Tarkio R-I School District, an Atchison County Commissioner, landowners participating in the project, and MOFB members from DeKalb County who have had mixed and negative experiences with projects in their area.
MOFB and Extension plans to work together to use the knowledge gained on this trip to determine a path forward. MOFB will also continue to work with other local and statewide partners, as well as state legislators, to solve the problems members have encountered with wind farms so that any future developments can be positive for all parties involved.