MN farmers virtually take to Capitol Hill for biodiesel

Originally set to take place in Washington, D.C., the semi-annual National Biodiesel Board Member Meeting went virtual on June 22-24. Two Minnesota soybean farmers joined National Biodiesel Board (NBB) members, farmers, blenders and biodiesel producers from across the country to hear updates on biodiesel and promote the industry to senators, representatives and staff members.

“Minnesota continues to lead the biodiesel industry with our forward-thinking approach to renewable energy,” says Chris Hill, National Biodiesel Foundation Board (NBFB) member and Minnesota Soybean Growers Association (MSGA) director. “Learning more about the goal to increase production to 15 billion gallons by 2050 shows promise for the industry’s future and certainty for soybean farmers.”

Recognized by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) as the first Advanced Biofuel in the industry, biodiesel supports nearly 60,000 jobs nationwide and over 5,000 jobs in Minnesota alone. The homegrown fuel contributes nearly $1.7 billion to Minnesota’s economy, and increases demand for soybeans by 13 percent.

Along with Hill, Brewster farmer Ron Obermoller spoke virtually with legislatures, thanking them for their support of the industry and educating them on the impacts COVID-19 has had on the industry over the past months.

“The pressure on SRE waivers from the industry and farm families could result in something good, but it is true there are some challenges,” says Congressman Tom Emmer, who represents Minnesota’s Sixth District. “It’s good for the environment, economy and your members. It truly is a win-win-win for everyone and we are making our opinions about that known.”

In total, Minnesota farmers completed ten visits, including Congresswomen Angie Craig, who represents Minnesota’s Second District and has been a strong supporter of biodiesel since she was elected to Congress in 2018.

“I am frustrated that (the EPA) are considering the SRE waivers, and to hear they are considering them is unbelievable,” says Rep. Craig. “It seems you have to choose big oil or family farms and don’t see how you balance those two. An oil refinery is the largest employer in my district, but I have made my choice clear and will continue to be a friend of biofuels and family farms.”

Maximizing on the opportunity as the only state to speak with their entire federal delegation, farmer leaders thanked the delegation for supporting the extension of the biodiesel tax credit to 2022, and for their support on other legislation that continues to help grow the biodiesel industry.

“We want this all to be a cooperative effort and support rural communities across the state of Minnesota,” says Brain Werner, senior legislative assistant to Sen. Amy Klobuchar. “We know of the impact this has and will continue to do everything we can to support you in these efforts.”

In addition to biodiesel, Hill and Obermoller raised awareness on transportation and infrastructure issues in rural Minnesota.

“Developing an infrastructure that aids in economic benefits and raises quality of life is crucial for all Minnesotans,” says Congressman Jim Hagedorn, who represents Minnesota’s First District. “Rural areas needs the same opportunities as urban areas. An infrastructure plan has to get done and we will be there for our farmers to get that done.”

Prior to a full day of virtual hill visits, farmers heard about the impact COVID-19 has had on the industry, the role biodiesel plays in meeting carbon neutrality goals and how the industry is planning for exponential grow in the future.

“While it always seems biodiesel has some sort of hurdle to cross, it always prevails to be stronger and stronger every year as a clean burning, environmentally friendly fuel,” says Hill. “In a time of uncertainly for soybean farmers across Minnesota, biodiesel has a bright future that we all can look forward to.”

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