Glenn bill would lower electricity costs for farmers, agriculture operations

Legislation cosponsored by Canfield, Howell to expand energy choice

Rep. Gary Glenn, R-Williams Twp., chairman of the Michigan House Energy Policy Committee, will hold a public hearing Tuesday, Feb. 20th, on House Bill 5387, legislation he introduced to help farmers and other agricultural operations save money on electricity bills, a major cost of doing business.

Spokesmen for the Michigan Sugar Company plant in Bay City, the POET ethanol plant in Caro, and the Michigan Agri-Business Association are expected to testify, along with other industry representatives, about the impact of electricity costs on agricultural production and processing operations. Individual farmers are also encouraged to attend and testify Tuesday at 9:00 a.m. on the 5th floor of the House Office Building across the street from the state Capitol in Lansing.

Glenn's bill - which has two cosponsors, Rep. Edward Canfield, R-Sebawaing, and Rep. Gary Howell, R-North Branch -- would allow agricultural production and processing operations to choose where they buy their electricity, potentially saving millions of dollars for Michigan's second-largest industry and lowering the cost of food products for consumers. Currently, most agricultural operations do not have the option of capitalizing on potential savings through alternative suppliers to Consumers Energy and DTE because Michigan law caps the electricity choice program at 10 percent of the market -- a limit reached almost a decade ago. The practical result is that some agricultural operations are free to buy electricity from an alternative provider, but the overwhelming majority are forced to buy power from Consumers or DTE.

"The arbitrary 10 percent cap on Michigan's electric choice program protects utility monopolies at the expense of customers, including our state's farmers and agricultural processing operations," Glenn said. "It artificially raises the cost of doing business in agriculture, which in turn results in higher prices for families. It's unnecessary and unfair. This legislation is an attempt to reverse this harmful state law and help lower costs for food producers who are vitally important to Michigan residents and our economy."

Glenn called agriculture "the backbone of Michigan's economy," citing state statistics which indicate that agriculture comprises 22 percent of employment in Michigan and contributes more than $101 billion to the state's economy each year.

Michigan produces more than 300 commodities for commercial sale. The state has more than 52,000 farms.