The American Soybean Association (ASA) this week pointed to the record-setting production of biodiesel from American soybeans, as well as the success of biobased products before a Senate Agriculture Committee hearing on the energy component of the upcoming Farm Bill. The hearing is the first of four convened by Committee Chairman Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.) in an effort to make progress on the legislation.
ASA President Steve Wellman, soybean farmer from Syracuse, Neb., stated that the industry’s record production of 1.1 billion gallons in 2011 is evidence of biodiesel’s pertinence to the nation’s energy discussion. This production record supported more than 39,000 jobs, generated income over $1.7 billion, and created more than $3 billion in GDP, he pointed out.
All but a few of the approximately 170 biodiesel production facilities in the U.S. are located in rural areas, Wellman added. About half of the annual biodiesel production is from soybean oil and nearly all of the feedstock used to produce biodiesel is grown in or originates in rural areas.
Farm Bill energy programs have a direct impact on the soybean industry. The Biodiesel Fuel Education Program and the Biobased Market Program help expand marketplace acceptance and use of biodiesel as a low-carbon, renewable diesel replacement fuel, Wellman noted. It supports technical outreach efforts to engine manufacturers, truckers and fuel marketers that will eventually allow the use of higher biodiesel blends in conventional diesel applications.
“The Biobased Market Program continues and expands the federal biobased procurement program and voluntary labeling program,” Wellman added. “This is an effective and important program for promoting the emerging biobased industry, which has significant potential to enhance agricultural markets, displace foreign petroleum and fossil fuels, and contribute new green jobs to the economy.”
Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack shared Wellman’s points on the importance of the biobased products market, saying “A bioproducts sector marries two of the most important economic engines for rural America: agriculture and manufacturing. Today, there are more than 3,100 companies across the country producing more than 25,000 biobased products.”
ASA, and its industry partners and allies on Capitol Hill have led efforts to promote federal support for biobased product development through the program. ASA is a founding member of the Biobased Products Coalition, a group of companies that make biobased products and ingredients, and agricultural organizations that represent the feedstock providers for the biobased products.