New Senate Legislation Aims to Boost Cellulosic Energy Crops

The Farm-to-Fuel Investment Act would provide assistance to help growers transition to energy crops.

Published on: May 16, 2007

New legislation introduced in the Senate Tuesday would help producers get started with growing dedicated energy crops.

The Farm-to-Fuel Investment Act, introduced by Senators Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, and Kent Conrad, D-N.D., would provide three years of transition assistance to farmers producing dedicated energy crops within 50 miles of a biorefinery. The assistance takes into account that some energy crops, such as switchgrass and other prairie grasses, can take around three years to reach their first mature harvest. Also, the three years help to allow a market to develop with a biorefinery.

"This bill charts a course for initiating the extensive production of biomass feedstocks while continuing to protect wildlife and promote sound soil and water conservation practices," says Harkin, the chair of the Agriculture Committee.

Participating farmers would have to agree to adopt conservation practices for soil quality, water quality and wildlife habitat. This can also provide benefits for prairie grasses, which can provide conservation benefits by protecting soil and water quality, sequestering carbon, providing wildlife habitat, and saving fuel and fertilizer.

"Farmers are going to be a key part of our nation's ability to achieve energy independence," says Klobuchar. "These crops could revolutionize how we look at energy just like ethanol and biodiesel have."