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.