Minnesota farmers and industry leaders ‘see for themselves’ at the National Biodiesel Conference & Expo

Seeing is believing.

The Minnesota Soybean Research & Promotion Council (MSR&PC) strives to build leaders through its See For Yourself (SFY) Program. MSR&PC invited fuel distributors, mechanics and farmers from across the state to the National Biodiesel Conference & Expo in Las Vegas. This year, 12 industry participants from Minnesota attended the conference.

The SFY Program was originally created as an evaluation to ensure checkoff dollars were being used effectively to support the biodiesel industry and to overall help farmers’ bottom line. As a result, collaboration between industry and the farmers has built the program to what it is today.

“The ultimate goal is to educate the fuel system in Minnesota,” said MSR&PC Director Jim Willers, who attended the conference. “We want any walk of life that has anything to do with diesel fuel to become educated on the ins and outs of biodiesel.”

When the SFY participants first arrived at the conference, they went through a 4–5-hour biodiesel training to help get acclimated to the show. Following the training, participants networked and attended sessions to learn more about the latest opportunities and challenges in the industry.

The SFY program was eye-opening to some of the participants.

“The soybean oil, the diesel, and the animal fat that goes into making biodiesel is a big part of America right now, and it’s bigger than I think Minnesota farmers think it is,” said Dan Schmidt, who works in energy sales at Ag Partners Coop. “We all have a lot of research to do, a lot of reading to do and we need to continue to learn more about it.”

MSR&PC Director Jim Willers promotes the Council’s Plasma Blue unit at the 2022 National Biodiesel Conference & Expo in Las Vegas.

Next chapter

The National Biodiesel Board officially unveiled its new name and new brand, Clean Fuels Alliance America, during the opening session of the 2022 National Biodiesel Conference & Expo.

“Our industry has seen and will continue to see significant growth as the world around us focuses on clean energy,” said Donnell Rehagen, CEO of Clean Fuels. “We are an integral part of the solution for sustainable energy that’s not only affordable but also scalable and available now. Further, our new name and brand represents the connected energies of our members and positions our industry for a clean fuels future.”

In addition to the brand reveal, the organization celebrated its 30th anniversary. With the Kenlon Johannes Pioneer Award, Current NBB Chairman Chad Stone honored the range of leaders who served as past chair of National Biodiesel Board and helped shape the biodiesel and renewable diesel industry into a multi-billion-dollar industry.

NBB chairs comprised both farmers and biodiesel producers. Minnesota has represented NBB with two farmers leaders who have served as chair of NBB within the last 30 years. Ed Hegland, who served from 2007-2010 and was there to receive his award, and Roger Peterson who served in 1999.

In addition, Rehagen distributed a new book, “The Birth of American Biodiesel: Biographical Accounts Celebrate 30 Years of Pioneers, Leaders and the Bold Vision for the National Biodiesel Board.” 

MSR&PC Senior Director of Product Development & Commercialization Mike Youngerberg and Hegland were both featured in the book.

“What we accomplished in St. Paul, in Washington, D.C., it’s really rewarding,” said Hegland, a former director with the Minnesota Soybean Growers Association. “It’s great to see (biodiesel) still thriving and growing.”

Youngerberg recently celebrated his 35th year at MSR&PC and has helped Minnesota’s biodiesel market grow and become a national leader in the biofuels movement.

Through Youngerberg’s time with MSR&PC, Minnesota became the first state to pass a law requiring minimum blending requirement for biodiesel in 2002. In 2005, the state first implemented a 2-percent biodiesel blend in diesel fuel. In 2018, the state moved to a 20-percent biodiesel blend during the summer months and a 5-percent blend during the winter months.

“Mike has been such an asset,” said Tom Verry, Clean Fuels’ director of outreach and development. “He’s had such a huge impact nationwide, and is just the kind of person who makes this all happen in Minnesota.”

Today, biodiesel contributes nearly $1.7 billion toward Minnesota’s economy, adds more than 5,000 jobs and increases demand for soybeans by 13%.

“I am proud to be part of the momentum and strides Minnesota has taken to support biodiesel,” Youngerberg said. “We need to continue to have our voices heard and continue to show biodiesel as a clean fuel option.”

MSR&PC currently invests checkoff funds into four projects with the Clean Fuels America Alliance.

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