al franken

MSGA talks value added products, biodiesel at Franken round table discussion

Senator Al Franken (D-Minn.) called on the Minnesota Soybean Growers Association and the Minnesota Biodiesel Council to join other key players Wednesday at the Minnesota State University, Mankato campus to discuss renewable energy policies for the upcoming farm bill.

The main objective of the round table discussion was to give Franken feedback on his current bill and learn more about current research and opportunities pertaining to renewable energy, fuel and value-added ag products. 

“This is why we’re here,” Franken told the group after learning soybean oil is used in Minnesota as a road sealant. “We’re here to be greener and find ways to add value to ag products.”

Joe Smentek, MSGA director of public affairs, represented Minnesota soybean farmers at the round table, thanking Franken for his longtime support of biodiesel and farmers. 

“The programs and opportunities we discussed are great for farmers and rural America,” Smentek said. “But we need to ensure they are fully funded, and for that matter, not cut in its entirety.” 

In 2013, Franken and nine colleagues introduced S. 860: A bill to amend the Farm Security and Rural Investment Act of 2002 to improve energy programs. That bill became the basis for the energy title in the 2014 Farm Bill. Franken introduced a similar bill – S. 1776: Agricultural Energy Programs Reauthorization Act of 2017 – in anticipation of the 2018 Farm Bill. 

While the energy title is only a small component of the overall farm bill, it provides funding that is crucial for hastening the transition to homegrown renewable energy. Additionally, with this iteration, the bill provides a new and increased emphasis on high-value end products from biomaterials, seeking to stimulate rural economic growth beyond what can be provided by an exclusive focus on biofuels. 

Mike Youngerberg, executive director for the Minnesota Biodiesel Council, was also invited to join the conversation, representing biodiesel and renewable fuels. 

“Being there today was an opportunity to provide insights to the senator on programs that matter most to soybean farmers,” Youngerberg said. “We’re grateful to have him (Franken) on board when it comes to biodiesel and the move to higher blends.”

Others present at the round table included representatives from Region Nine Development Commission, Clean Energy Resource Teams, Green Seam, Minnesota Solar Energy Industries Association, Minnesota Farmers Union, Minnesota Farm Bureau, Minnesota Rural Electric Association, Minnesota Biofuels Association, AURI, USDA Rural Development, Mankato State Energy Faculty and students from Minnesota State University, Mankato.