May 31, 2013

Kentucky Agriculture Secretary James Comer Defends Sulphur Fertilizer Loan

After unprovable criticism was directed towards Kentucky Agriculture Secretary James Comer for lending money to a company producing sulphur pellets from coal plant waste, he defended his actions, saying he listens to those that actually are "actually growing a crop."

"I am talking to actual farmers and fertilizer dealers, and there is a demand for the product, and there is a need by the farmers," Comer said. "I go by the professional, cutting-edge farmers and the guys that are actually growing a crop."

That was a nod towards Todd Pfeiffer, chairman of the Plant and Soil Sciences Department at the University of Kentucky, who said "it is unlikely that there will be a crop need for sulfur fertilization in Kentucky ... possibly for decades," adding that while sulfur emissions have been significantly cut back, there is still a lot of sulfur being embedded in the soil, which will over time become available to crops.

Pfeiffer doesn't sound convincing when using the word "unlikely," as it suggests he really doesn't know whether Kentucky soil needs sulfur or not, he appears to be guessing based on personal feelings about the subject matter, i.e. anti-coal.

Another dubious source of criticism cited by the liberal Courier-Journal, was that of Adam Barr, who used to be a board member of the sustainable farming support group - Community Farm Alliance, sees "no benefits to Kentucky farmers." That's odd, about 50 percent of purchase orders are from Kentucky farmers, according to Danny Gray, the Charah executive vice president and company spokesman. Evidently Kentucky farmers see benefit in it.

All of this centers around a lot less sulfur being released into the air because of the Clean Air Act, which attempts to remove sulfur from plant emissions, which is apparently at the expense of Kentucky farmland, according to Comer.

He claims in many parts of Kentucky there are sulfur soil deficiencies because of the removal of so much sulfur from the smokestacks.

Charah, the recipient of the loan, received $2.5 million at 3.25 percent over a 7-year period.

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