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March 19, 2007 - Renewable fuels - an important part of the farm bill

Minnesota Congressman Collin Peterson, Chairman of the House Agriculture Committee and keynote speaker at the Agriculture Day Luncheon at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C. earlier this month used a line worth repeating, so I will. Chairman Peterson said,
“I much prefer buying my energy by the bushel in the Heartland of America instead of by the barrel in the Heartland of the Middle East”.

He then launched into the important role renewable fuels will play in writing the new farm bill, pointing out the ethanol boom has driven farm income to higher levels in a strong demand market and Congress wants to continue that strength during the years of the 2007 bill. At the same time, he said research must be funded to find other sources of biomass because corn and soybeans cannot be the only inputs if we are to meet the goal of 20% of our energy from non-petroleum sources by 2025. He is requesting $6-billion in research funds to do that work.

He was followed on the program by Secretary of Agriculture Mike Johanns who also talked about the importance of renewable fuels in our farm economy and said the Administration proposals would fund research and promotion. He also said other sources must be found because higher corn and soybean prices are putting undue pressure on livestock producers because of rising feed costs. There were nods of approval from the pork producers in the audience who provided the pork chops for the Agriculture Day luncheon and later buttonholed the Secretary to personally express their feed cost concerns.

Later in the day at USDA headquarters, Secretary Johanns addressed a rally of 150 FFA members and encouraged them to seek careers in production agriculture as well as agribusiness. He pointed out the average age of farmers is above 55 years and rising, which means many are approaching retirement and that will open the door for younger farmers. He told the FFA members he heard many sound ideas from them at the 52 listening sessions and that is why the Administration farm bill has a section dealing with special farm program benefits and loan assistance for beginning farmers. He urged them to convince their Congressional representatives to keep those provisions in the 2007 bill for the benefit, not only of young farmers and ranchers here, but for consumers of the nation and the world.

All in all, it was a very positive start to saluting our nation’s farmers and ranchers and it felt good to be a part of it. Let’s make the Chairman’s line a part of our national campaign to cut our dependence on foreign energy...”I much prefer buying my energy by the bushel in thne Heartland of America instead of by the barrel in the Heartland of the Middle East”.

My thoughts on Samuelson Sez.