Senator Al Franken tours farm that's implemented Rural Energy fo - KTTC Rochester, Austin, Mason City News, Weather and Sports

Senator Al Franken tours farm that's implemented Rural Energy for America Program


A Rochester farm is working hard to run their operation with renewable energy and energy efficient projects.

On Saturday, Senator Al Franken visited the Walch Family Farm to see how things are done.

Senator Franken is a huge proponent for renewable energy and using energy efficient methods when it comes to farming.

He even wrote the energy provision of the 2014 farm bill, which reauthorized the Rural Energy for America Program, or REAP, which helps farmers, ranches, and rural businesses invest in renewable energy or energy efficient projects.

Saturday morning, he got to see his plan in action.

Julie and Jerome Walch are organic farmers.

"We're doing grass-fed beef. And we're doing chickens, ducks, and we're doing organic crops..peas, barley, corn, hay. And we sell that to other organic producers that need it for feed," said Jerome Walch, of his farm.

Last year, the Walch Farm received a federal REAP grant to install a solar system that helps power their crop and livestock operation.

"Al is coming down to see how the project went and to see that people's tax dollars are being spent in a sensible way. And I think it's great because it actually gives him the opportunity to see what a project looks like once it's done," said Jerome Walch.

So, how does the solar system work?

"It actually collects energy DC and there's inverters on the backside on the panels that convert it to AC. All the power being produced goes on the grid and then that's all taken on, from that point on, from People's Energy Co-op or whatever. So, it's all going back on the grid, it isn't being stored here," explained Jerome Walch.

Senator Franken is delighted the REAP program is working for Minnesota farmers. .

"It makes me feel good. This is what being a Senator is about. And it's about improving people's lives, it's about taking actions that's going to improve our future,” said Franken.

One little guy at Saturday's tour may just feel the impact of the conservation methods of today, in years to come.

“Ellis, someday, you'll say, 'Thank you, Senator Franken, for your Rural Energy for American Program.

And Senator Franken, I'm sorry that when we were on the farm, the Walch's farm that I didn't personally thank you, I was only two months old. And I just was not able to say properly, to express my gratitude.' That's sort of what this is about,” said Senator Franken.

The Walch's said the outright cost of the project was about $52,000.

However, their REAP grant is about 15 percent.

Add in the tax credit through the federal government, and that cuts down the cost tremendously.

The Walch's said if the solar system works how it's supposed to, the pay back with their production will probably be about five years.

“I think it's an innovative thing to do and we're hoping a lot of people come out and see it and go ahead and see if it's something that will fit for them, as well,” said Julie Walch.

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