Archive for July, 2011

And They’re Off!

The Governor’s Ethanol Challenge began last week with races in Oglivie and Princeton and continues with three more racing events

Written by Jonathan Eisenthal

The humidity dropped and the rain cleared off in time for Midwest Mods and Mod-4 racing cars to compete last week in the first races of the 2011 Governor’s Ethanol Challenge. The five racing events take place at Wissota Racing League tracks, and offer special prize purses to competitors who use ethanol blends ten percent or greater to fuel their cars.

The Governor’s Ethanol Challenge began under Gov. Tim Pawlenty and continues now with Gov. Mark Dayton, who have given the seal of the state chief executive’s office to help Minnesota Corn Growers Association spotlight the economic and environmental benefits of ethanol for Minnesota. Also, racing with ethanol demonstrates the high quality and performance characteristics of the fuel.

Opening night in Oglivie last Tuesday followed by Wednesday night’s event in Princeton represent the first time the Governor’s Ethanol Challenge races have taken place at metro area venues.

“We are bringing the ethanol messages to a whole new group of people,” said Chad Willis, a farmer in Willmar and chairman of Minnesota Corn Research & Promotion Council. Willis, an organizer of the GEC events, attended the races in Oglivie and Princeton.

“There was some good racing in both features both nights,” said Willis. “The announcers did a good job mentioning ethanol and making an impression with facts about ethanol. They talked about how many gallons of ethanol come out of a bushel of corn, how much DDGS come from it–It makes an impression about the quality and efficiency of ethanol production and what a positive thing it is for our communities.”

A band of young volunteers handed out literature to people as they came through the gate and were paid with an official GEC t-shirt. American Lung Association of the Upper Midwest has committed to sending representatives to each of the five events. In Oglivie, ALAUM communications director Bob Moffitt brought packets of information that included a thank-you message and additional information about ethanol, that he placed on all the flexible fuel vehicles he could find in the parking area. Jon Hunter and Courtney Blankenheim did the same at the Princeton races the following night.

This week the series will go to Viking Speedway (July 26th) Madison Speedway (July 27th) and finish up at KRA Speedway in Willmar on July 28th.

Here are some of the ethanol facts the announcer shared with the audience:

– Minnesota is the nation’s leader in the number of fueling stations that sell E85. Today, there are more than 370 stations in Minnesota that sell E85, the renewable fuel made of 85 percent ethanol and just 15 percent gasoline. To locate an E85 station near you, log on to CleanAirChoice.org.

– Not only can ethanol plants currently produce about 2.8 gallons of ethanol from a 56-pound bushel of corn, they also simultaneously produce 17.5 pounds of high protein livestock feed from that same bushel. 

– In 2010, U.S. ethanol plants produced more than 13 billion gallons of ethanol. That makes ethanol producers our nation’s third largest supplier of fuel – behind only Canada and Saudi Arabia and ahead of Venezuela.

– It’s a fact! Ethanol provides, on average, 67 percent more energy than it takes to produce it. Gasoline, on the other hand, provides about 15 percent less energy than is required to produce it.

– Minnesota’s 21 ethanol facilities are capable of producing more than 1.1 billion gallons of ethanol. This year, about 260 million bushels of corn in Minnesota will be made into ethanol.

– Back in 1996, Minnesota only produced 20 percent of the ethanol we used. Today, we produce more ethanol than we need, which means we’re able to export it to other areas of the country and bring more dollars back to our state.

– It’s true that, like most industries, ethanol production uses water. Typically, 2 to 3 gallons of water are used in producing one gallon of ethanol. To compare, it takes about 2 gallons of water to brush your teeth, 4 gallons of water to produce a pound of hamburger, 2-7 gallons to flush a toilet, 25-50 gallons to take a 5 minute shower, and 50 gallons of water is used each day per person. Minnesota is one of the only states that tracks water use at ethanol plants and those records show a steady decrease in gallon per gallon water usage.

 

Advertisements

A mature industry can give back: That was the case with ethanol, and it’s especially the case with oil.

(opinion piece by Sen. Amy Klobuchar, published in the Star Tribune newspaper, July 18, 2011)

In a report last December, the bipartisan National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform called on our elected leaders to make the tough choices necessary to responsibly reduce the deficit. Among the specific recommendations was comprehensive tax reform that would close loopholes and end special tax breaks, with most if not all of the savings dedicated to deficit reduction.

Corn farmers and the ethanol industry have just agreed to sacrifice their fair share. Now it’s the oil industry’s turn.

Earlier this month, I joined my Senate colleagues John Thune, R-S.D., and Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., in brokering a bipartisan agreement to end the major tax credit for ethanol while allowing for a transition to a more sustainable model of incentives for domestic renewable fuel production. Under this deal, the Volumetric Ethanol Excise Tax Credit (or VEETC) will expire at the end of this month instead of the end of 2011, as scheduled.

Eliminating this tax credit early will mean that $1.3 billion will immediately be dedicated to debt reduction. The remaining one-third of savings will go to targeted incentives for advanced biofuels and infrastructure, which will bring greater competition to the fuel market.

Minnesota has been one of the biggest beneficiaries of this tax credit. We now rank fourth nationally in both corn and ethanol production, with 21 ethanol plants that are responsible for more than 8,400 jobs and $3.1 billion in annual economic output. Nationally, ethanol production has quadrupled over the past seven years. It is now a competitive, established industry in the energy market, providing 10 percent of America’s fuel supply. We now get more gasoline from ethanol than we import from Saudi Arabia.

Incentives for ethanol have helped us reduce our dependence on foreign oil, while strengthening our rural economies. But in these tough economic times we simply can’t afford them.

Tell that to the oil industry.

The big oil companies have long enjoyed what economists call “tax expenditures.” A better name might be “stealth spending,” because it is government spending hidden in the intricacies of the federal tax code.

Tax expenditures make sense when we want to encourage a specific economic activity in the public interest, such as making home ownership more affordable or stimulating private sector investment.

Oil companies have enjoyed federal tax subsidies on a much greater scale and for a much longer time than the ethanol industry.

It’s a very impressive (and very expensive) laundry list: Domestic manufacturing tax deduction for oil production — $18.2 billion over 10 years. Expensing of intangible drilling costs — $12.5 billion over 10 years. Percentage depletion allowance — $11.2 billion over 10 years. Dual capacity rule for foreign tax credits — $10.8 billion over 10 years.

Two of these (intangible drilling deduction and oil depletion allowance) have been available to the oil industry for nearly a century. Maybe the oil companies needed them back then. They don’t need them now.

The five largest oil companies in the United States are Exxon Mobil, Shell, BP, Chevron and ConocoPhillips. In the past decade, they have racked up almost $1 trillion in profits.

In just the first quarter of 2011, these five companies had combined profits of $32 billion, up 30 percent from a year earlier.

Last year, for the eighth consecutive year, Exxon Mobil was the most profitable corporation among the Fortune 500. Yet, according to the Center for American Progress, Exxon Mobil’s effective federal income tax rate is just half what it is for most other corporations, and is even lower than the effective personal income tax rate.

This is not to pass judgment on whether the oil companies deserve their profits, even such large profits. Nor is it a statement on drilling — I support it. Instead it is a question about whether such a hugely profitable industry should continue to enjoy lucrative tax advantages at a time when our nation can least afford it.

With oil prices much higher than actual costs, the oil industry doesn’t need extra money from the government as an incentive to explore and drill more oil.

What’s fair is fair. A relatively small industry like ethanol is willing to put two-thirds of its tax breaks on the table for deficit reduction. The much larger and much more profitable oil industry can certainly afford to do the same, if not more.

Amy Klobuchar, a Democrat, represents Minnesota in the U.S. Senate.

Our Take:
Fair is fair.

We agree this is not a judgment about whether the oil companies deserve their profits.

And we agree with the Senator that drilling must continue–farmers, like the rest of the country, will depend on petroleum for some time to come.

But without all the government handouts, in particular the drilling depletion allowance, which essentially allows oil companies to collect money for the value they have already sucked out of the ground, maybe the worst of Big Oil’s ecological sins would not be incentivized–namely thermal enhanced oil recovery, which uses groundwater and lots of steam energy to extract the last drops from tired, tapped out wells.

Leave that oil in the ground (and that groundwater for better uses) ethanol gains ground not only as the environmentally sensible and politically advisable alternative, but more economically competitive as well.

Now that ethanol is going without, it’s time to level the playing field.

New truck rules would hurt farmers

Curt Watson, a farmer who raises sugarbeets, wheat, soybeans and corn on his farm in Renville, Minnesota, considers public safety the number one concern when it comes to farmers trucking their product to market.

So he has no problem with requirements for safety inspections of trucks and other current regulations, which are aimed at keeping farmers and the general population safe on the roads.

But he worries that the latest rules being formulated by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration won’t make anyone safer and would reduce the overall safety and efficiency of the food production industry and make farmers less efficient at a time when global competition is critical.

In essence the FMCSA would treat most farmers trucking products from their farms to the local cooperative the same as an overland commercial trucker taking products from one corner of the country to the other. Barring proof that 100 percent of the farm product will be used in-state, such a transaction would be considered interstate commerce, and as such, the farmer would need a commercial driver’s license. Also, anyone operating farm machinery with a gross vehicle weight 10,000 lbs or greater would need a commercial license.

“This isn’t a workable solution,” said Watson. “We want people to be safe on the road, but we don’t see how this helps farmers or the general population be safer on the road–in fact it might be just the opposite. In the current labor market, finding enough people with CDLs in a timely way during harvest would not be possible. If you force farmers back to using a tractor and wagon or single axle vehicle to haul product it will make travel on rural roads slower and perhaps less safe than having the option of making these short hauls in semis, which is a common practice among Midwestern farmers.”

The new regulations also would in effect penalize farmers for making sensible crop sharing agreements. Though many farmers who rent land simply pay cash, others are able to make agreements with landowners to share both the risk and reward of growing crops by paying the rent in the form of a share of the crop. The proposed regulations would consider the farmer a “for-hire” trucker when trucking the land owner’s share along with his own. In such a case, the farmer would be required to hold a commercial driver’s license.

Watson and his neighbors, like many farmers across the Midwest make a go of it financially thanks in part to the ability for teen children to operate some farm machinery during the critical periods of planting and harvesting.  Because commercial truckers must be 21 years old, the new requirements would essentially eliminate the ability of adolescents to make that crucial contribution to the family business.

“We are worried about the impact of this on farmers of all sizes, but small family farmers would be especially hard hit,” said Watson.

Farm groups are now encouraging farmers to make sure they let the federal government know how counterproductive these new rules would be.

“I really hope many farmers will take the time to educate government officials on this issue,” said Watson.

FMCSA has extended the public comment period on the new rules to Aug. 1. If you’re a farmer, or rely on area farmers, you can share with them why you think this is such a terrible idea.

Send comments online to http://www.regulations.gov by following the instructions on the website. They also may be faxed to 1-202-493-2251 or mailed to Docket Management Facility, U.S. Department of Transportation, Room W-12-140, 1200 New Jersey Ave., SE, Washington, D.C., 20590-0001.

Farmers and Fishers come together to restore trout stream near St. Peter

Written by Jonathan Eisenthal

The Fishers and Farmers Partnership, a program developed through US Fish and Wildlife Service, has brought together farm producers and anglers with the common goal of restoring fish habitats.

Fishers and Farmers Partnership for the Upper Mississippi River Basin has adopted three projects, one each in Minnesota, Iowa and Missouri. Minnesota Corn Growers Association is a signatory to the group’s charter.

Group members gathered recently at Seven Mile Creek, near St. Peter, Minnesota, to view a stretch of the watercourse that they hope can become a vibrant trout stream again.

Steve Sodeman, a director with Minnesota Corn Growers Association and chairman of Minnesota Agricultural Water Resources Coalition, jumped at the chance to interact with fishermen and tell them about the interest shared by farmers in improving water quality through projects like this. Sodeman noted that most farmers he knows love fishing, so it’s a natural match when it comes to farmers looking to reach out and build bridges to the non-farming public.

“We’re trying to work with people, make friends–we are finding that there are reasonable people out there,” said Sodeman, who is a partner in a crop consulting firm based in Trimont. Sodeman said, “Being there, you can develop a relationship and educate people about what is going on in agriculture. It’s an opportunity to be present. Water is one of the most significant issues of our time and we need to be there and be part of what is happening.”

The Mississippi River chapter of Fishers and Farmers Partnership has not yet set firm goals regarding the Seven Mile Creek project, but the broad outline is to control sediment loading through the construction of embankments and the seeding of plants that will act as a buffer. These vegetative buffer strips slow down water entering the creek and remove sediment and nutrients that can impact the clarity, temperature and oxygen levels in water–all characteristics that are critical in trout habitats.

Sodeman said that in a context like this, where people come together to work on a project, one can’t be a wallflower. Taking a chance, and expressing an opinion leads to relationship and real communication.

“I expressed the opinion that there are some problems with the film, Troubled Waters, (which is featured on the Fishers and Farmers Partnership web site),” Sodeman said. “We take issue with how some things are presented, with some of the things stated as fact, and I said very straightforwardly that it is a real sore spot with some of us. We had a very positive discussion that came out of that. It made the folks I was talking with think about it in a different way, where before they simply accepted what the film presented. That’s all you can do. You take it one little step at a time.”

Sodeman said Minnesota Agricultural Water Resources Coalition presents “a fantastic opportunity–it’s all of agriculture, speaking with one voice, about our concerns with water quality and how government approaches the issue and regulates agriculture. We have a firm belief that the more actual scientific research into water quality restoration methods, the more effective we can all be, working together, to achieve our water quality goals. It’s not about casting blame on one group or another, but about finding out what really works and getting it done.”

Back off on ethanol. Let markets work.

(An editorial published by Pioneer Press)

We love ethanol more as a political issue than as an additive to gasoline. An anti-ethanol U.S. Senate vote last month reminds us what a potent mixture it is.

On June 16, the Senate voted 73-27 to end a federal tax break that subsidizes ethanol production. It may also take aim at a tariff that protects the U.S. ethanol industry.

President Obama supports the subsidies, so they will likely survive for now. But the vote, coming in the Democratically controlled Senate, suggests that ethanol subsidies have lost support.

Building and subsidizing Minnesota’s corn-based ethanol industry has been Minnesota’s state policy for two decades. The state added its own benefits to the federal subsidies and – most important – required its use through an ethanol mandate.

Former Republican Gov. Tim Pawlenty, now a presidential candidate, was an ethanol supporter, and even signed off on increasing the percentage of the ethanol mandate from 10 percent to 20 percent, effective in 2013.

As a presidential candidate, Pawlenty opposes ethanol subsides. That’s because it’s a tough issue – the reason we like it.

The subsidies and the mandate have created an industry in rural Minnesota – 21 production plants, a capacity of more than 1 billion gallons, and a strong demand for corn. But they put government squarely in the marketplace, creating demand by requiring its use. The net environmental benefits of ethanol are in dispute and its effect on prices of food and animal feed has raised concerns.

Supporters believe “E10” (a 10 percent blend in gasoline) and “E20,” once it is implemented, will strengthen the state’s industry and stimulate development in “cellulosic” ethanol – fuel made from grasses or nonedible parts of plants.

They argue that U.S.-based renewable fuel reduces our need for imported oil, is cheaper than gasoline and has helped reduce tailpipe pollution.

There were understandable reasons for launching the ethanol industry in Minnesota. There are equally good reasons, now that the industry is established and state and federal budgets are in the red, for ratcheting back grants and tax breaks. Some Minnesota supports for the industry have already ended.

Liberals like Sen. Diane Feinstein of California joined with conservatives like Sen. Tom Coburn of Oklahoma in the Senate vote. Ethanol-state senators, including Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., and Sen. John Thune, R-S.D., want to divert some of the tax subsidies toward developing cellulosic, “next-stage” ethanol. They also want more funding for “flex-fuel” pumps that use higher-percentage mixes of ethanol.

At root is the question of government’s role in the private business of farming and the processing of agricultural products.

Minnesota has cast its lot with a strong-government approach. As the federal government rethinks its own stance, Minnesota officials would be wise to look again at how our commitment to ethanol squares with fiscal reality, political philosophy and the way markets work best.

Our Take:
The problem is that even without the ethanol program, the federal government is up to its eyeballs in the energy market–billions in breaks for oil, nuclear and electric generation. The strategic petroleum stock pile. Mostly what the federal government is doing is reinforcing our addiction to foreign oil.

The fact is, if we want to move beyond fossil energy we need a strong government approach in favor of renewables, just to undo the harm current government policy already does. Rather than picking winners, future policy should set outcomes. We want energy that’s renewable and that is less carbon intensive than gasoline–balancing those values with what is going to be affordable for the consumer. Cheap transportation energy has been the foundation of our consumer economy.

The existing transportation energy market is a de facto mandate to use oil. Many experts say we have passed the tipping point and that from here on out oil production will decrease. If we leave oil to its own devices and let renewable energy wither on the vine, then the current trend will only intensify–oil prices will rise even while consumption remains flat–to the great detriment of our national economy.

We are truly transfusing America’s economic lifeblood into autocratic regimes: Russia, Iran, Saudi Arabia and Venezuela–this is the largest transfer of wealth in the history of human kind. Exxon’s $10 billion dollar profit per quarter pales in comparison to the riches being amassed by these countries that fundamentally oppose all the values America holds dear.

TR–Teddy Roosevelt–was a Republican with a strong libertarian streak and he saw the value of a strong government approach when it comes to busting monopolies. He saw that the monopolies that had once served to build out national infrastructure–Banking, Timber and Rail barons–and lay a foundation for a strong national economy had become an impediment to both personal freedom and future economic growth.

A rational approach to energy would be to end every last dime of fossil fuel support and put that money into incentives to develop next generation energy. To earn the incentive, the energy should meet the outcomes. Corn ethanol will do fine in such an atmosphere and cellulose ethanol will have room to sprout. Other renewable sources we haven’t thought of yet will come along.

One UC Berkeley scientist has said in an interview on 60 Minutes, the CBS news program, that it will take a trillion dollars to retrofit America’s coal-to-electricity plants in order to make them clean, emission-free power generators. If we continue to prop up fossil energy, that’s the kind of expense we are in for, and frankly, it could break us.

As China loses population to urban areas, imports of US grain may grow

Written by Jonathan Eisenthal

China’s aging farmers, most between the age of 58 and 62, make up 55 percent of the 1.1 billion population, but that is changing quickly. In less than five years, forecasts predict only 40 percent of the citizens of the world’s most populous nation will live and work on farms. The implication for world corn supply and demand is “a matter of intense interest,” according to experts.

This rapid population shift was just one fact picked up by Minnesota corn grower Lori Feltis, one of seven producers who took part in a US Grains Council survey team trip to China’s northern corn growing provinces in late May and early June.

“The country is facing a challenge of figuring out what to do with all these people pouring into the cities,” Feltis reported. Feltis is a corn producer near Stewartville, Minnesota, and serves as a representative for the Minnesota Corn Research & Promotion Council. She said, “The government has a lot of incentives and benefits to keep people out on the farm. They subsidize half of medical costs, and subsidize many of these inputs.”

“Currently, China’s near term purchasing intentions are a matter of intense interest,” said Floyd Gaibler, a director of trade policy for US Grains Council, who accompanied the survey team on its trip. He said, “China has significant policy commitments to self-sufficiency.  It also has a rapidly urbanizing population, rapidly increasing swine and poultry consumption, growing land-use pressure, and the financial capability to chart its own course.”

While China has been an import customer of US soybeans for some time, 2010 marked the first year when China became a major corn importer, purchasing 1.5 million tons of US corn last year.  This year, China has already imported more than a million tons of US corn to date, and it is anticipated that they will buy more this year.

“They have also been importing DDGS since 2004 and purchased three million tons of distillers grains products in 2010 and 500,000 tons in the first quarter of 2011,” said Gaibler.

Feltis noted that Heilingjong and Jilin Provinces, which are at a similar latitude to Minnesota, have also experienced a cold wet spring. They do not modify planting choices accordingly, the survey team found.

“They plant 130-day maturity corn, harvest it at 35 to 40 percent moisture and then lay it out on the roofs of their homes and freeze dry it and then shell it by hand,” Feltis said, describing what an industry that stands at the stage of development seen in the US in the 1940s or even earlier. “About 90 percent of harvest is done by hand. In the north, planting is equally split between hand and machine. But the machine they use is about three-foot tall, and contains just a few quarts of seed…There are no planters or harvesters like we use. All of the tillage is done by machine. They ridge plant and they have four-inch high, four-inch wide ridges, planted 22 inches apart. They plant about 10-12,000 population, compared to typical US rates of 32,000-36,000. Pioneer (the seed division of DuPont Co.) is there trying to educate farmers. Corn producers see yields between 65-70 bushel per acre, on good land. Other land produces much less than that. “There are over 8,000 seed businesses in the area. Pioneer has about 20 percent of the marketshare, but apparently many farmers view it as a more expensive option…They don’t have GM seed because the government doesn’t allow that.”

The group flew from Beijing up to the corn producing region, but then spent two days driving back, so that they could stop and talk to farmers, livestock farmers and other agribusinesses.

‘We asked how much nitrogen and potash they use and found that the government does soil tests and advises them on how much fertilizer they need,” Feltis said. “They also recommend which weed control products to use. They have the equivalent of 2-4D similar to what we use here in states. You go into the store and get all chemicals–the store clerk acts as an extension agent, has a list, to tell each farmer how much to use.”

The survey team found that small, backyard hog operations are a growing phenomenon in China. A typical operation will have a single sow and bring in 15 feeder pigs in the course of a year and finish them and sell them. These operators typically grow their own corn, but they can only keep about a three month supply on hand, to meet government requirements. After that, they go to the millers where they sell the rest of their grain and buy back a compound feed product, the ingredients of which they do not know exactly.

“We did try to visit some national corn storage facilities,” Feltis said. “Most are under high security. It’s unknown how much they have in reserve. We are assuming the stocks are very low. Because prices are phenomenally high for corn.

Among the other aspects of crop production and marketing observed by the team: local elevator companies use grain bins with woven wheat grass tops that hold 1500-3,000 bushels. Most such bins the team observed were about three-quarters full. They learned that the Chinese use coal-fired grain driers to bring the corn down to 14 percent moisture for storage. The use of 130-day maturity corn in a region with only 120 days frost-free means much of the product is under-matured. Elevators deliver about 70 percent of their corn to millers, and only 30 percent directly to livestock farmers.

Because the activity of the millers is more transparent, observers of China’s agricultural production feel confident in the assessment that China’s own stocks are low and that its import volume is bound to grow.

Japan, the export largest customer for US corn, has a fifty year head start over the market in China. USGC began a campaign to encourage consumption of milk, meat and eggs in Japan in 1961, as part of its work to develop a market there for our grain.

Other than Japan, the top importers of US corn are: Japan, Mexico, Korea, Taiwan, Egypt, China, Canada, Venezuela, Colombia, Dominican Republic with the remainder among several other countries, according to Gaibler.  

“Through this reliable US supply, Japan has become food secure without becoming self-sufficient,” Gaibler said. “While it will continue to be our most important market, Japan does have an aging population which will limit the growth of demand for livestock and poultry products.  Mexico has been an important growth market for corn and DDGs to meet increased demand for poultry, swine and dairy products.  Each market involves educating buyers and producers on the value and efficiency of incorporating corn, DDGS, sorghum and other co-products in feed rations.  The level of adoption varies as does the utilization of feeding technology, transparency of markets, infrastructure, and trade barriers.  China is experiencing strong growth in their swine and dairy sectors and the Council is working to help them with not only feeding programs, but disease and veterinary training, genetics and breeding, housing design, forage lab and corn silage demonstrations, among other activities.  It also has significant policy challenges:  commitment to self-sufficiency; biotechnology constraints; trade barriers; grain and food security and safety concerns. So while we utilize similar programs and tactics in capacity building, each market presents its own specific challenges and tactics to respond to them.”

The U.S. Grains Council develops export markets for U.S. barley, corn, grain sorghum and related products. The Council believes exports are vital to global economic development and to U.S. agriculture’s profitability.

Founded in 1960, the Council is a private, non-profit corporation with 10 international offices and programs in more than 50 countries. Its unique membership includes producer organizations and agribusinesses with a common interest in developing export markets. Membership funds trigger matching market development funds from the U.S. government and support from cooperating groups in foreign countries to produce an annual development program valued at more than $28 million.

Klobuchar touts farming, ethanol as cornerstones of MN economy

(excerpt of article by Jason Schoonover “Klobuchar Visits Steele County”, published by the Albert Lea Tribune)

Sen. Amy Klobuchar visited the area last Saturday, stopping at Tom Favra’s farm between Ellendale and Blooming Prairie on a tour of farms and agriculture-related businesses.

Klobuchar said farming and agriculture-based businesses have helped rural Minnesota endure economic hardships.

“If you look at rural Minnesota, that’s one of the reasons that our state hasn’t fallen off a cliff like some states,” the senator said. “Because the rural economy has been held strong.”

Klobuchar said farmers like Favra are an essential part of Minnesota’s economy.

“He started out with nothing. Just a family farm and he expanded,” she said.

That’s not to say agriculture is completely unscathed by economic hardships. The senator was talking about a recent agreement to end the Ethanol Reform and Deficit Reduction Act.

“That was incredibly difficult the last few weeks, but we were able to come out of it with an agreement that is supported by the Farm Bureau, the Farmers Union, major ethanol groups and the corn growers,” Klobuchar said.

The deal would bring the subsidy to an end, while dedicating $1.3 billion of the remaining money to reducing the national debt. The remaining $668 million would be used with long-term infrastructure needs for the ethanol industry, the senator said.

http://www.albertleatribune.com/2011/07/11/klobuchar-visits-steele-county/

Our Take:
We appreciate Klobuchar’s good work on behalf of Minnesota’s farmers and the ethanol industry–as Klobuchar frequently says–agriculture and farm-based energy are big on the list of reasons Minnesota’s economy “has been held strong.”

It takes courage and vision to fight for these things when they have become a convenient scape goat for bloated government and energy businesses with far more lobbying leverage than farmers and ethanol makers possess.

We are lucky to have Klobuchar on the Senate agriculture committee and we know she will continue to fight for the farmers and the economic stability they bring to Minnesota.