“Rural development” – We’re going to hear that phrase a lot more in the months to come as work ramps up on the new farm bill. USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack has talked about the need to turn the corner on the economy in rural America, which includes government policies that support domestically-produced biofuels and energy. At the National Rural Summit held at Jefferson College, Hillsboro, Mo., this week, Secretary Vilsack said that biofuels alone have the potential to create thousands of new jobs. Watch the video at mms://ocbmtcwmp.usda.gov/content/secy/0603_secy.wmv. 
Vilsack cited a 2009 study conducted by the Biotechnology Industry Organization (BIO), www.bio.org/ind/EconomicImpactAdvancedBiofuels.pdf , that estimates advanced biofuels production could create as many as 807,000 jobs (directly and by economic multiplier effects) by 2022 if the U.S. stays on track to produce 36 billion gallons of biofuels (mandated by the Renewable Fuel Standard RFS2) by that time.
That’s still a long way off, but BIO also has estimated that direct job creation from advanced biofuels production could reach 29,000 in two years and 94,000 in six years. The important point is that most of these jobs will be in rural America where people will be needed, as Vilsack says, to “build, maintain, run and make parts” for biorefineries (not to mention the farmers who raise feedstocks for these biorefineries).
What’s more, domestically-produced advanced biofuels production (again depending on the success of the RFS) could reduce our oil imports by about $5.5 billion in two years and as much as $70 billion by 2022. BIO reports that the cumulative total of avoided petroleum imports between 2010-2022 would exceed $350 billion. Imagine at least some of that money being pumped back into rural America where most people who read Farm Industry News live!
Speaking of oil, Vilsack briefly mentioned an idea that Show Me Energy Cooperative, Centerview, Mo., has for helping to mitigate the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico—it involves switchgrass. Check it out on You Tube at www.youtube.com/watch?v=aZw_bs4WdA0 .