Biofuels future bright: Vilsack

Source: By Gene Lucht Iowa Farmer Today • Posted: Friday, June 22, 2012

DES MOINES — After listing several major national initiatives aimed at promoting biofuels and new products made from crops, USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack pauses for a moment during a speech and tells the audience the future is much brighter than the present.

“Folks, this is just the tip of the iceberg for bio-based economics,” he said. “There are extraordinary opportunities out there.”

It’s not the first time Vilsack has made the point.

He has been on the stump pushing three messages in recent months.

One is the future is bright for the bio-economy.

A SECOND is the election-year message the Obama administration has been pushing to help farmers, saying in many cases its efforts have been helpful in boosting the rural economy.

The third is a new farm bill needs to be passed this year.

Also, it should not be called a farm bill, but rather should be talked about as a food, farm and jobs bill because it affects much more than just farmers.

This is a point Vilsack makes repeatedly.

This past week, the former governor was back home in Iowa making those points.

The primary reason for his latest stop was to promote a recent report that paints a picture of how well the rural economy is doing and how important ag exports are to that rural economy.

HE SAYS the administration continues to be committed to renewable energy and supports a move by the military to develop and use more bio-based fuels for its ships and aircraft.

There is little correlation between the increased use of biofuels and the cost of food, he explained.

But, there is a correlation between the cost of oil and the cost of food, due in large part to the transportation cost of bringing food to the table.

Vilsack also answered several questions, including one about the EPA doing fly-overs of livestock facilities.

HE SAID that program was started during the Bush administration, largely as a cost-saving measure.

Some of the same lawmakers complaining about the move now had no complaints when the previous administration was doing it, he added.

Also, Vilsack said while some farm groups are complaining about regulations, the Obama administration has implemented fewer regulations than some of its predecessors.

Some regulations are needed, he added. For example, he stressed the importance of regulations aimed at providing market transparency for farmers.

Still, his main message on this trip and on many of his recent stops in the state has been agriculture is doing well, and the future remains bright.

OH, AND the legislation being debated in Congress is not just a farm bill, but rather it is a food, farm and jobs bill.