Grassroots Efforts: One Aerial Applicator's Action Plan

Author:  Damon Reabe, Reabe Spraying Service, Waupun, Wis.
Agricultural Aviation, November/December 2009
Editor’s Note: Tip O’Neill, a longtime Speaker of the House, once declared, “All politics is local.” NAAA members like Damon Reabe have taken those words to heart by wading into zoning debates, talking to landowners and working with local agencies to regulate the marking and placement of wind towers. But Reabe hasn’t stopped there, making a persuasive case that the lack of access to aerial application would have a detrimental effect on potato and processing vegetable production fields in Wisconsin. His efforts have gotten the attention of state legislators and the Wisconsin Department of Agriculture. This is his story.
Reabe Spraying Service began researching wind energy in great detail shortly after writing our policy letter to our customers. Specifically, we wanted to understand the positive and negative aspects of hosting wind turbines from a landowner’s viewpoint, the positive and negative aspects of hosting wind turbines from the political subdivision’s viewpoint and how wind energy development was regulated. This research led to several courses of action.
First, we began meeting with customers who owned land in areas where we observed meteorological testing (met) towers. During those meetings we shared the information we found regarding the negative aspects associated with hosting wind turbines. Our customers found this information very helpful, and in many cases these landowners decided not to host wind turbines or to hire an attorney and begin the process of “getting out” of the agreement to host wind turbines.
We then began to meet with township and county officials at public meetings in areas where we observed met towers. During those meetings, we presented our research. At the conclusion of those meetings, most Townships placed moratoriums on the construction of wind energy facilities while they researched the subject in greater detail.
Our next course of action was to meet with state government officials. We gave a one-on-one presentation to one of our State Senators and another to a State Representative. The presentation included a detailed explanation of the critical role aerial application plays in Wisconsin agriculture. One of the most powerful documents in that presentation was a two-page letter from a University of Wisconsin plant pathology professor that explained the significant negative environmental impact associated with the loss of access to aerial application on potato and processing vegetable production fields.
Next, we contacted the associations that represented our customer base and explained our policy. These associations represent segments of Wisconsin agriculture that has an annual economic impact of one billion dollars. This resulted in those associations sending position letters to our State House and Senate committees that are working through the difficult task of regulating the development of wind energy in Wisconsin.
We then provided testimony at a public hearing on the subject of wind energy at our state capitol. Our active participation regarding this subject matter prompted the Wisconsin Department of Agriculture to contact us. We are drafting a letter requesting to meet with the Deputy Secretary of the Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, the Wisconsin Public Service Commission, the associations that represent our customers and the University of Wisconsin Professor Emeritus of Plant Pathology. Our goal is to educate these officials of the critical role we play in protecting this segment of Wisconsin agriculture and the environment.
It should be noted that the amount of acreage in the state of Wisconsin utilized in the production of potato and processing vegetables is a very small percentage of the total agricultural land in our state. This provides wind energy developers with large volumes of agricultural land to develop.
We are not trying to prohibit the development of wind energy in Wisconsin. We are simply informing the appropriate governmental entities that a large segment of agriculture (one billion dollars worth, annually) is at risk due to improper wind energy facility siting.