The U.S. Department of Agriculture recently announced a nearly $250 million financial commitment to an Oregon based company researching new methods of producing biofuels.
The announcement comes at a unique time in agricultural history. On the one hand, the farm industry is currently beset by deficit hawks in Congress who are looking to balance the federal budget on the backs of agricultural programs. On the other hand, the farm industry is more profitable than ever before thanks to booming land prices and rising crop prices.
One of the major causes of these increased crop prices is the increased global demand for corn-based ethanol. The demand for ethanol has dramatically increased the price of corn and created a major debate between farmers eager to capitalize on high prices and environmental activists who are concerned that ethanol is wasteful and contributes to high food prices and global hunger.
The USDA’s investment in Oregon’s ZeaChem Boardman Biorefinery may satisfy some of these environmental concerns. The refinery uses high-yield cellulosic fermentation technology to convert agricultural residue and farm waste (such as wheat straw and corn stover) and woody biomass into advanced biofuels and biomass chemicals.
In his statement announcing the USDA’s investment, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack linked furthered biofuel research to American economic growth, stating, “This project and others like it will help to establish a domestic advanced biofuels industry that will create jobs here at home and open new markets in the Pacific Northwest and across America.”
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Written by: Justin Ellison / Farm Plus Staff Writer