Vilsack, Branstad rally for biofuel

Source: Written by Dan Piller, Des Moines Register • Posted: Monday, April 1, 2013

The ag secretary and Iowa governor use DuPont Pioneer event in Johnston to defend Renewable Fuel Standard

Put two prominent Iowa politicians on the same stage these days, even when they’re from opposite parties, and an immediate defense of the U.S. Renewable Fuel Standard breaks out.

U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack, a former Iowa governor, and incumbent Gov. Terry Branstad both used a ceremony at DuPont Pioneer’s research center in Johnston on Friday to get in licks in favor of the federal mandate that at least 10 percent of gasoline used in U.S. motor cars be ethanol.

“The Renewable Fuel Standard is critical to the biofuels industry,” said Vilsack, who has warned his fellow Iowans repeatedly on visits to his home state of the potential threat to the entire Midwest from interests hostile to biofuels.

Vilsack noted the benefits of biofuels, including rural jobs, a reduction in oil imports and a stronger economic base for agriculture. Ethanol consumes 37 percent of the U.S. corn crop.

Branstad said the Renewable Fuel Standard “is under attack, and is very important to the industry.”

Branstad said he has submitted an article to the Web site Politico and has written to every member of Congress stressing the importance of the Renewable Fuel Standard.

The mandate has long been unpopular with livestock and food processors, who attribute it to higher grain prices and rising food costs. They have been joined in the last year by the major oil companies, who say the RFS is no longer needed at a time when domestic oil production is rising by 20 percent per year.

Iowa is the nation’s leading biofuels producer with 41 corn ethanol plants and 13 biodiesel plants. DuPont is building a cellulosic ethanol plant, to be fed with corn refuse. Another cellulosic plant is being built by Poet at Emmetsburg.

The ceremony at Pioneer marked a new cooperative venture between the Natural Resource Conservation Service of the U.S. Department of Agriculture to study and improve ways to manage the cornstalks and leaves left behind.

DuPont Vice President Jim Borel said one purpose of the memorandum of understanding signed by the USDA and DuPont is to help reassure farmers that taking crop residue left behind after harvest would not upset the long-standing use of such material as soil nutrients.

“With increased plant populations, we’re learning that in many cases the problem is that there is too much stover left behind, and this can help clean some of it up,” Borel said.