‘New opportunities’: Minnesota farmers, industry leaders see biodiesel’s potential in Tampa

Minnesota is a state leader in the biodiesel marketplace.

Twenty-one years ago, it became the first state to pass a law requiring minimum blending requirement for biodiesel. In 2005, the state first implemented a 2% biodiesel blend in diesel fuel. In 2018, the state moved to a 20% biodiesel blend during the summer months and a 5% blend during the winter months.

“Each year brings new opportunities and challenges in the biodiesel marketplace,” said Mike Youngerberg, Minnesota Soybean Research & Promotion Council (MSR&PC) senior director of product development & commercialization. “It is important for our industry leaders to stay informed of these advances to make educated decisions.”

For the past 15 years, MSR&PC has done just that – keep the Minnesota biodiesel industry informed and engaged. MSR&PC invests in a See For Yourself Trip (SFY) in conjunction with the Clean Fuels Conference (formerly known as the National Biodiesel Board Conference).

It’s a cakewalk: Minnesota Soybean leaders celebrate 15 years of the See For Yourself program in Tampa Bay, Fla.

This year’s SFY participants included 14 Minnesota farmers (including several MSR&PC directors), fuel producers and fuel distributors.

“I have attended the SFY and the conference many times,” MSR&PC Director Jim Willers said. “And it continues to amaze me the ever-changing industry. It is great to have our industry leaders here to see that.”

Starting out the week, participants had an orientation meeting prior to the conference. During the meeting, an array of topics were covered, including federal and local policies, an overview of 100% biodiesel for decarbonizing heavy-duty engines and the differences between biodiesel, renewable diesel and sustainable aviation fuel.

“We try to give the participants a briefing of the week before they jump in,” Willers said. “It is a great time to connect and showcase how the conference pertains to our industry in Minnesota.”

Once the orientation is over, participants deep dive into the Clean Fuels Conference where they can network and attend sessions across the span of four days. This year’s conference marked 20 years of coming together.

“The theme of this conference is ‘United as One,” Clean Fuels CEO Donnell Rehagen said during the open session. “One isn’t always a lonely number. It is a powerful number.”

This theme proved true throughout the conference as it marked a new era of the industries coming together in efforts to reduce carbon through clean fuels. Industries that may have never saw eye to eye are now joining forces.

The conference focused on ways to tackle issues of the future, work on policy matters to help reduce our carbon footprint, emphasize how the industry is already making an impact and look at the industry as a whole to see how to work better together.

“It was a great conference, and I really enjoyed it,” Willers said. “It provided the participants with a wealth of information that they can bring back to our state.”­

MSR&PC Chair Joe Serbus and Directors Ron Obermoller and Bill Zurn also attended the conference, along with Council CEO Tom Slunecka, United Soybean Board Director Lawrence Sukalski and Chris Hill, a Jackson farmer who represents MSR&PC on the Clean Fuels board. Joe Smentek participated on behalf of the Minnesota Soybean Growers Association.

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