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Executive Director’s Column

We learn at an early age that everything we do has a consequence – it impacts someone else. It is up to us to make the right choices.

Right now decisions are being made in Washington D.C. that will impact several of Minnesota’s most promising value-added agriculture opportunities. Congress is debating a comprehensive energy bill that will set our national energy course for years to come.

The bill includes tax incentives for biodiesel manufacturers that would make it more affordable for companies, including producer-owned cooperatives, to begin refining biodiesel. In Minnesota, we are particularly interested in biodiesel. We worked hard for a state mandate requiring that by next year all diesel fuel sold in Minnesota have a 2-percent biodiesel blend – if we have enough production.

Many producer-owned enterprises and agricultural groups are seriously investigating constructing biodiesel refineries to meet the anticipated demand and to add value to what they grow. Few of these groups are likely to move forward unless there is some federal support.

Renewable products such as biodiesel have a place in this nation’s energy policy. They mean jobs and economic activity for rural areas and energy self reliance for the nation.

Another example of how Washington can impact rural enterprises is a Congressional directive that gives preference to biobased products. The USDA is establishing standards that would require federal agencies to purchase natural-resource-based products unless they are not reasonably available, can’t meet performance standards or are too expensive.

The federal government is a huge customer, spending billions of dollars each year on products for its agencies and the military. Giving preference to biobased not only helps the environment, it could open a large domestic market for Minnesota companies that make ag or forestry-based industrial products.

Whether it’s biobased products or renewable energy policy, the right actions in Washington are having a positive effect on rural Minnesota.