renewable energy group

REG, MSGA tout biodiesel with plant tour

Two from MDA, one from Governor’s office tour Albert Lea facility

Biodiesel is big business in Minnesota. And as such, the Minnesota Department of Agriculture (MDA) likes to keep abreast of how the industry is developing and growing.

That’s why a trio from MDA and the Governor’s office joined Minnesota Soybean Growers Association (MSGA) Vice President Michael Petefish and Minnesota Soybean staff for a tour of Renewable Energy Group’s (REG) Albert Lea, Minn. facility Wednesday.

Michael Petefish

MSGA Vice President Michael Petefish explains the inner workings of a combine to MDA Assistant Commissioner Andrea Vaubel (center) and Tenzin Dolkar, Policy Advisor to Gov. Mark Dayton at his farm near Claremont, Minn.

“I think it was really just a way to get us educated on the benefits of biodiesel,” said MDA Assistant Commissioner Andrea Vaubel.

Vaubel, along with MDA Policy Director Whitney Place and Tenzin Dolkar, Policy Advisor to Gov. Dayton, toured the REG facility responsible for nearly half of the state’s biodiesel production at 30 million gallons annually.

“We wanted to be there, see how it all works and hear from the experts,” Vaubel said. “There’s really nothing like being able to talk with the experts where they work, see how it happens and understand their opportunities and challenges.”

REG Director of Corporate Affairs Scott Hedderich welcomed the group with a presentation about REG and Minnesota’s biodiesel industry. Hedderich says REG Albert Lea is responsible for 75 direct jobs and 1,800 indirect jobs, and pointed out biodiesel impacts farmers, the state’s economy and the environment.

“As an industry, we are extending the green cycle, the life cycle of a product,” he said.

After the tour at REG, the group toured Petefish’s farm near Claremont, Minn., where Petefish answered questions and talked about his operation and the difficulties he faces as a farmer.

Dolkar asked Petefish if expanding foreign markets would add value to his crops.

“Absolutely,” he said. “Right now we have exports, soybean meal and biodiesel as our major markets. Expanded exports would definitely help.”

Petefish explained that he’s fascinated by the work the Minnesota Soybean Research & Promotion Council does to open new markets and expand uses for soybeans.

“It’s not only us selling our grain overseas,” he said, “but it’s the work they do to help teach other countries how to raise better livestock, which in turn creates more demand for our crops to feed those livestock.”

The MDA tour at REG is the first of several planned biodiesel plant visits this fall with legislators and state officials.