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These turkeys fill your belly and keep the lights on, too

Sietsma Farms in central Michigan sends more than a million turkeys a year to the dinner table.

That’s a lot of Thanksgiving feasts.

Turkey: Has my presidential pardon arrived yet?A million turkeys also generate a lot of waste – on the order of 17,000 tons of litter per year. Local farms are happy to use it as fertilizer, but a little litter goes a long way – and at this point, the litter has to go farther and farther away. In fact, it can cost as much as $10 a ton just to get it to mid-Michigan farms that can use it. A million turkeys also need to eat. To feed all those birds, Sietsma Farms has its own mill that creates feed pellets, which is a very energy intensive process.

Thanks to a $500,000 energy grant and $700,750 energy loan from USDA Rural Development, Sietsma Farms has constructed a biomass renewable energy plant adjacent to their Howard City facility. This will use the turkey litter to power the feed processing center. The energy plant will require 14,000 tons of litter per year to produce approximately 8,625 pounds of steam and 462 kW per hour.

It will draw upon the waste of five turkey operations within a 45-mile radius for its fuel, in effect turning a hazardous substance into a valuable one. As a result, there will be less pollution, less odors and more electricity for other users in the area.

We estimate that the project will pay for itself within four years.

Not bad for a holiday dinner entrée.

Alec Lloyd, Michigan Public Information Coordinator, USDA Rural Development

Missouri Utilizing Recovery Act Funding for Water Improvements

I found it very rewarding to see the rural town of Gideon, Missouri utilizing the Recovery Act funds to make their water system safe.  The water project is one of the first in the nation to benefit from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) funds that President Obama signed into law in February.

I presented Mayor Ron Wakefield of Gideon a Certificate of Appreciation on Friday, November 13, 2009 for his vision of tapping into the ARRA funds for essential improvements for the safety of his residents.  Senator Claire McCaskill and Congresswoman JoAnn Emerson were represented at the ceremony along with the Engineer, Contractor and City officials.

The City was awarded $2.4 million in USDA Rural Development dollars with a combination loan and grant to correct serious deficiencies in the 1930’s existing water distribution system that serves 454 residents and small businesses in the community.  Based on pay estimates, the staff advised me that they are over one third completed in making the necessary repairs.  I was proud to see the dollars at work with backhoes trenching and new water lines being installed.

Some of the folks I talked to made me aware that Gideon’s water distribution system has been plagued by problems for many years and has deteriorated to a point that monthly water outages are a common occurrence.  The City has been under intense scrutiny since the waterborne salmonella disease outbreak of 1993, which contaminated the City’s 100,000-gallon elevated tank.  Many upgrades were performed at that time, and again in 1997 when contamination was again confirmed, but serious concerns still existed regarding the more than nine miles of distribution lines.  Officials told me that there are hundreds, if not thousands, of bands on the old lines to stop leaks.

With the funding provided to the City of Gideon by Rural Development, the existing distribution system will be completely redesigned.  Approximately 80% of the water lines will be replaced with all new, metered service lines, providing the City with adequate pressure to service its customers.  Improvements will also be made to the well house, chlorine feed system and a backup generator will be installed for emergency power.

It would be an understatement to say that the impact of these funds on this community is really monumental!

While attending the ceremony I met Slayton Boone, a student reporter from the Gideon High School.  He had an interesting perspective on the water improvements.  In fact, he relayed the story to Rural Development that the water system improvements was one of the “top ten”  items that appeared on T-shirts regarding improvements needed in Gideon. The phrase “No boil order on Water” was a not a desirable item but unfortunately a reality.

It makes me feel good to know that the Recovery Act funds helped create construction jobs but even more important is that this investment will remove a serious health hazard for this rural town and make it a better place to live for the future.

- Jane Dunning, Missouri State Director, USDA Rural Development