Biodiesel takes center stage at D.C. member meeting

This week, three Minnesota soybean farmers joined nearly 100 National Biodiesel Board (NBB) members in Washington, D.C. to take part in their semi-annual membership meeting and Hill visits. Farmers, blenders and biodiesel producers from across the country heard updates on biodiesel and promoted the industry to Senators, Representatives and staff members on Capitol Hill.

“The industry has seen continuous growth over the years,” says Chris Hill, National Biodiesel Foundation Board (NBFB) member and Minnesota Soybean Growers Association (MSGA) director. “It is always good to join together with other supporters to hear the latest and greatest about the industry.”

Recognized by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) as the only Advanced Biofuel in the industry, biodiesel supports nearly 60,000 jobs nationwide and over 5,000 jobs in Minnesota alone.

“Biodiesel is so important to Minnesota farmers and the economy,” says Hill. “We need to ensure there is continued support at the national level.”

Along with Hill, Minnesota was represented by Luverne farmer Jim Willers and Brewster farmer Ron Obermoller.

Top priorities include:

  • Support for HR 2089 for an extension for the biodiesel tax credit.
  • Support for HR 3006 to require the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to grant small refinery exemptions before setting the annual Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) volumes.
  • Urge the House Energy & Commerce Committee and the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee to tell EPA to increase the market space for biodiesel.
  • Encourage colleges to use oversight authority to ensure the Department of Commerce conducts a fair review of Argentina’s biodiesel exports.
  • Vote to appropriate funding from the Farm Bill to the Bioenergy Program for Advanced Biodiesel and Biodiesel Education Program

In total, Minnesota completed nine visits in both the House and Senate.

A supporter of biodiesel from the beginning, freshman Congresswomen, Angie Craig, representing Minnesota’s Second Congressional District, has continued to push legislation forward to benefit Minnesota farmers.

“I was told that the freshman in Congress weren’t loud enough, and man I can tell you that we sure became loud after that,” Rep. Craig said. “The biodiesel tax credit is crucial and we understand the importance it has for the future of the biodiesel industry. The bottom line is that farmers need markets.”

Farmers also met with agriculture champion and House of Representative Agriculture Committee Chairman, Collin Peterson, who represents Minnesota Seventh Congressional District.

“Agriculture is tough right now,” Rep. Peterson said. “I will continue to be an advocate for biodiesel and agriculture as a whole. I will do everything I can from trade to biodiesel and everything in-between.”

Biodiesel was not the only topic of discussion. Farmers maximized their time on Capitol Hill to talk about trade and transportation.

“We need to get the United States Mexico Canada Agreement (USMCA) passed,” Willers said. “It has a huge impact for agriculture and might actually provide us with a little bit of certainty in the markets which is what farmers desperately need right now.”

USMCA was a topic of discussion with many legislatures and speakers at the NBB meeting.

“USMCA has $2 billion worth of a positive impact for agriculture,” says Steve Censky, United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) deputy secretary and Minnesota native. “This really is a positive agreement for agriculture and I am optimistic it will pass here by the end of the year.”

The three Minnesota farmers also talked about the latest issues affecting transportation.

“Railroad companies are now doing a practice called precision railroading,” Obermoller told Rep. Craig. “Some railroads are going back on their promise to deliver unit rail cars at a better rate and now charging singe car rates for everything. They require railcars to be filled within 24 hours sometimes or you are charged rent for the extra time it takes. No grain facility can load that many cars in 24 hours, it’s not possible.”

This problem is estimated to cost farmers an additional 40 cents per bushel in an already frugal market.

To conclude their time in Washington, D.C., NBB members gathered to hear about the future of the biodiesel industry.

“We have to increase our production to keep up with the growing demand,” said Don Scott, NBB director of sustainability. “We expect demand to increase to nearly 30 million gallons by 2030 and that is significantly higher than what we can produce now. With new initiatives to reduce greenhouse gases and carbon levels across the country, biodiesel has a place to help with that.”

Soy biodiesel has been proven to reduce greenhouse gases by at least 66 percent and reduce carbon in the U.S. by 25 million pounds per year.

“Biodiesel is a cleaner burning alternative with a positive impact on the environment, all while providing an additional market for our soybean oil,” Obermoller said. “We are fortunate to have farmers, as well as elected officials who understand the impact and importance of biodiesel to our country.”

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