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Reader Questions Goose Pond's Benefit to Greene County

Reader Questions Goose Pond's Benefit to Greene County
Local farmer puts pencil to economics for the community.

By John Paul Coleman

Editor's note: This commentary is in response to items running on this Web site recently about the complete Goose Pond wetland project in Greene County.

I first want to start by saying I hope the Goose Pond Fish and Wildlife area does well. Greene County needs it. We lost $82,000 per year in taxes plus millions spent with businesses in the county. Before the wetland was restored, the farming operation spent approximately $350 per acre to put out a crop. What that means is that every year $2,800,000 was spent at local businesses.

Over $1 million was spent each year at fertilizer dealerships. Over $100,000 took place in local fuel sales. There was over $200,000 spent at a local machinery dealer, thousands spent at a local parts store, tens of thousands at a local tire shop and tens of thousands at a local propane dealer. Eight people were employed there full-time. The day (restoration) of the Goose Pond Fish and Wildlife Area started, all this local spending stopped.

What did we get in return? The Natural Resource Conservation Service spent approximately $6 million on excavating work, with maybe half going to local businesses. About 635 acres is still farmed, so that's over $222,000 for inputs each year. The budget for operation is $178,000, with maybe half spent locally. Last year there were 2,500 hunter days and 1,000 registered birdwatchers.

Realize that almost all hunters register, but very few birdwatchers do. Maybe 30% of birdwatchers register. That probably means closer to 3,000 bird watchers used the site.

The Indiana Department of Natural Resource's impact study estimated hunters spend an average of $34 per day, while birdwatchers spend $12. So that's $122,000 spent locally each year.

The project currently has three full-time and two-part-time employees. I figure that expense is just short of $500,000 annually. If you divide the NRCS money over 11 years, that's another $350,000 per year. All total, I calculate it has brought in $850,000 per year since it began operating. This number will probably decrease for a while due to much less spending by NRCS on capital expenditures in the future.

What all this means is that Greene County lost $31.7 million spent locally over the past 11 years, while GWFSA brought in $9 million during the same period, or 30% of what was lost.

The Goose Pond is there to stay. So why beat a dead horse? I hope that more communities will realize how important farming is to their economy. Farming is big business and should not be taken for granted.

I hope that the next economic advisory board that is trying to help a community somewhere will realize that their local farmers are a big part of the economy.

Editor's note: Coleman is a medium-size farmer in Greene County. He is responsible for the information he provides and calculations he makes in his commentary.

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