View From The Hill

A new ‘American Gothic'
By Bob Dinneen | August 27, 2007
The quaint image of the American farmer captured in the painting "American Gothic" makes one stop and appreciate how far American agriculture has come. On fewer acres, American farmers are producing more feed and fiber than that husband and wife could have ever dreamt. With these tremendous advances comes a new paradigm that will transform American agriculture forever.

Senate Agriculture Committee Chairman Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, has referred to it as the new "golden age of agriculture." It, of course, refers to the transformation of American agriculture from just a simple provider of food and feed to the epicenter of a new energy economy that relies upon the power of American imagination and the productivity of American farmers. It is an economy where new technologies, advanced seed hybrids and innovative farming practices are the foundation of a renewable energy future.

In Washington, D.C., this new paradigm is manifesting itself all over Capitol Hill. Indeed, as lawmakers seek to reauthorize the farm bill, renewable energy is fueling the debate—literally and figuratively. Analyses from the Congressional Budget Office concluded that the increased demand for grain used in ethanol production meant significantly less taxpayer dollars having to go toward farm support payments, meaning that $10 billion to $12 billion more could be spent on other important national priorities, such as conservation and food programs. The emergence of a truly viable biofuels market is restructuring American agriculture.

This paradigm shift is also manifesting itself on Main Streets and in rural communities all across the nation. As ethanol production begins to benefit an ever-increasing number of farmers and communities, new business and job opportunities are being created. From the welder onsite during construction to the tank car operator when the plant is in full production to the countless other individuals providing critical goods and services to the ethanol biorefinery, well-paying jobs are being created in the place where economic opportunities were few and far between.

House Agriculture Committee Chairman Collin Peterson, D-Minn., has already passed a new farm bill that would continue to build upon the success ethanol production has achieved across rural America. This legislation means greater economic opportunity for America, more job creation in small and rural communities, and a lesser dependence on foreign oil.

With all the exciting and revolutionary events happening with the agricultural and energy sectors of this nation, perhaps that classic painting should be updated.

Bob Dinneen
President and CEO
Renewable Fuels Association