USDA paper calls for more biofuels incentives

By | October 02, 2006
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Americans have asked to see more mention of biofuels in the 2007 Farm Bill, and the U.S. government has heard their request.
Agriculture Secretary Mike Johanns recently released the fourth installment of USDA analysis papers outlining ideas discussed during the 2007 Farm Bill Forums, held in 2005. This particular paper focused on the energy title, forecasting an increased focus on renewable fuels in the United States in years to come. Most significantly, the paper outlined raising the federal renewable fuels standard (RFS), extending renewable energy tax credits to 2015 or later, expanding outreach and education for the bioeconomy, and growing the national cellulosic ethanol research initiative.

"We are very encouraged by the USDA paper on agriculture and energy issues because it shows that people across the country … are talking about these issues and government organizations are listening," said Geoff Cooper, director of ethanol and business development for the National Corn Growers Association.

Although energy is a fairly new heading within the legislation—the 2002 Farm Bill was the first ever to contain an energy title—renewable energy is expected to play a significant role in the 2007 Farm Bill.

The U.S. DOE projects that by 2030, energy consumption in the United States will increase by 30 percent, with growth to meet transportation needs expected to increase by 40 percent. Ethanol and biodiesel supplies must also grow in order to keep up with the market and reduce dependence on fossil fuels, the USDA paper stated.

One scenario explored the expansion of cellulosic ethanol research in order to achieve large-scale, cost-effective production, possibly through the use of federal research facilities, competitive grants, partnerships with private companies and federally supported demonstration projects.

"They set a goal of reaching 250 million gallons of cellulosic ethanol production by 2013, and I believe we will probably see a clearer path [in the 2007 Farm Bill] to achieving that goal," said Samantha Slater, director of regulatory and legislative affairs for the Renewable Fuels Association.

Cooper said that while he supports the research and development of cellulosic ethanol possibilities, there is still research to be done with corn ethanol, and he hopes that it will not get "cut out of the picture."

"We are hopeful that the energy title in the 2007 Farm Bill will pick up where the 2002 Farm Bill left off," Cooper said. "It's our hope that the 2007 bill will … continue to offer benefits to our members and all farmers."