New federal commitment to biofuels welcomed across the farm sector

By Jon H. Harsch

© Copyright Agri-Pulse Communications, Inc.

Washington, Oct. 21 - USDA's new biofuels initiative announced Thursday got an enthusiastic welcome from a broad spectrum of the farm sector. Reflecting widely held views, National Farmers Union (NFU) President Roger Johnson told Agri-Pulse that Secretary Vilsack delivered a “message of commitment, certainty, and consistency.” Johnson sees this as “a clear message to the lending community” - a message which will unlock “a lot of capital sitting in banks” waiting for a strong signal that it's safe to invest in biofuels because the federal government is making a long-term commitment to the industry.

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Johnson says Vilsack's reassuring message is that government “will be there with loan guarantees, with these incentives . . . with as much assistance, as much research, as much technology and as much certainty, so that reduces the risk of investors and lenders.”

POET, the world's largest ethanol producer, welcomed USDA's finalization of rules for the Biomass Crop Assistance Program (BCAP), saying it will help launch the biomass market near the site of its planned cellulosic ethanol plant. Jim Sturdevant, Director of Project LIBERTY for POET, said that “The 85 farmers we have contracted with to deliver 56,000 tons of biomass this fall are nearly finished harvesting, so the final BCAP rule comes not a day too soon. We will now apply for our cellulosic ethanol plant to become an approved Biomass Conversion Facility (BCF) so that local farmers can become eligible for matching payments for the biomass they will soon deliver.”

National Corn Growers Association (NCGA) President Bart Schott, a corn grower from Kulm, N.D., commented that “Because time is very short before the current Congress ends, we urge lawmakers to take the importance of this initiative to heart and move quickly. While we support several broad efforts to extend the availability of higher blends, especially pressing is the extension of the Volumetric Ethanol Excise Tax Credit and other tax provisions to help ensure that current ethanol goals are met predominantly with domestic sources.”

One corn-based ethanol critic, the National Pork Producers Council, welcomed “the Obama Administration's acknowledgment that America's future biofuel economy must go beyond corn starch based ethanol and move in the direction of advanced and cellulosic biofuels. NPPC supports the Administration's decision to begin reducing subsidies and focus its support on the development of next generation biofuels that will significantly reduce greenhouse gas emissions.”

At the same time, NPPC encourages the Administration to be mindful of the volatility in the market caused by the emerging biofuels economy and develop appropriate safety valves ensuring that robust economic opportunities remain available for all of rural America.

National Association of Conservation Districts (NACD) President Steve Robinson commented that “As landowners and conservationists, we fully support the development and use of renewable fuels from agriculture and forestry products. Biomass is essential to meeting our nation's renewable energy and climate objectives; and the Biomass Crop Assistance Program is an important tool to help strengthen biomass infrastructure and stimulate the supply chain.”

Robinson said “Conservation districts are uniquely positioned to provide the technical assistance and outreach to landowners on the effective implementation of BCAP. We look forward to continuing to work with USDA to ensure BCAP is workable for small producers, and furthers the joint goals of energy and job creation, while maintaining the health of our nation's forests and other precious resources. . . Renewable fuels from agriculture and forestry products not only support the environment and our national security; they also promote job growth and economic development in our rural communities.”

To read about USDA's biofuels press conference announcements, go to:

To read more of what Sec. Vilsack said at the press conference, go to:

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