Archive for the ‘Education’ Category

University of Minnesota Student Reflects on his “Vern-alization” while Studying Agriculture

University of Minnesota Profressor Vernon Caldwell

University of Minnesota professor Vernon Caldwell is retiring after 45 years.

By Nick Peterson

This past winter one of my professors at the University of Minnesota retired after spending the last 45 years with the Department of Agronomy and Plant Genetics. It was bittersweet, since I had learned a great deal from him through my time with the Crops and Soils Club, Crops Team, and his classes.His name is Vernon Cardwell, previous professor/advisor/researcher at the University of Minnesota for the better part of the last century. As he spoke during the retirement party, he recalled the different “vern-alizations” he had witnessed with undergraduate and graduate students. With vernalization meaning acquisition of a plants ability to flower following cold periods, it was a metaphor of his students.Growing up on the family farm it was not difficult to realize that agriculture is what I wanted to continue to pursue in my career. However, the agricultural industry is a very broad field with many opportunities. As I was accepted to the University of Minnesota, College of Food, Agricultural, and Natural Resource Sciences, I was still very uncertain as to where I wanted to end up following graduation.

As I attended my first Gophers Crops and Soils Club meeting, I met and talked to Vern, who was the faculty advisor for the club. Soon after, following persuasion from Vern, I decided to join the crops judging team, where we competed against students at other schools in weed and crop identification, grain grading, and seed analysis. Since the 1970’s Vern has been leading the University to top ranked finishes, although participation had been waning in the last few years. This is when my Vern-alization began.

As I spent more time looking at plant and seed mounts and taking in all the information that Vern was spewing out, I couldn’t help but notice him slowly having an effect on me. The vast amount of agricultural knowledge that he had acquired over his many years of research, extension, and interaction with students was a little intimidating. I tried to soak up as much of it as I could.

Looking at my Vern-alization, though, it wasn’t so much the knowledge but the activism that he inspired in me that I would attribute to it. What makes him such a successful mentor to students is his ability to inspire this activism.

So, as I look towards graduation and opportunities in the agriculture industry in agronomy or seed representative roles, I continue to look back and use his contagious personality as a template for myself. I have no doubt this outlook will not only strengthen my commitment to clubs and organizations that I put my time into, but it will enable me to see the best in people as well.

The agricultural community was lucky to have a man like Vernon Cardwell influencing its students for the last 45 years. And so my Vern-alization proceeds, as I am ready to follow in my mentor’s footsteps and do what I can to better agriculture and the people within.

Nick Peterson is a participant in Minnesota Corn Growers Association’s Agvocate program.


Minnesota Well Represented at Commodity Classic 2013

Written by Jonathan Eisenthal

Thousands of farmers converged on Kissimmee, Florida (near Orlando) February 28 through March 2, for the unparalleled opportunities to network, to catch up on the latest technologies and tools of the trade and to forge a united political voice–all the benefits of Commodity Classic, one of the nation’s largest agricultural conferences. In addition to the tradeshow, exhibition and learning events, Commodity Classic includes the annual meetings of National Corn Growers Association (NCGA), as well as meetings of the soybean, wheat and sorghum growers organizations.

Minnesota’s Corn Organizations were amply represented by more than two dozen grower leaders and many others along for the learning and enjoyment.

“Commodity Classic brings so many of us farmers together, so we can learn, so we can understand what issues we need to take to the public and the lawmakers and policymakers so that we can keep farming strong, and be the best, most productive farmers we can be,” said Tom Haag, a farmer in Eden Valley, Minnesota, who serves as president of Minnesota Corn Growers Association.

A key element of the three-day gathering is consensus-building for the direction of the 34,000-plus member NCGA. By gathering with the other farmer groups, the common bond of farmers is strengthened, and a stronger voice for farmers develops.

“Having these discussions in a respectful, public way–that’s a big part of the reason for having our annual meeting and delegate sessions,” said Greg Schwarz, past MCGA president and current chairman of the MCGA government relations committee. Schwarz farms in LeSueur, Minnesota. He said, “Our grassroots determine what we do as an organization. Our farmers express their opinions and then our staff and our lobbyists carry that out.”

The number one concern for farmers across the country remains the passage of the long-delayed Farm Bill. For Minnesota’s corn organizations and many other groups, the public support that allows broad participation in crop insurance seems to be the most fundamental, strategic element in preserving independent family farms and assuring that the collective know-how they possess continues to give America the safe, abundant, economical food supply that is the envy of the world.

“There were many informal conversations going on about the Farm Bill, and the gist of the ones I took part in, is the need for unity and finding some kind of middle ground on issues that have divided some of the farm groups,” said Schwarz. “There is a recognition that, to pass a Farm Bill under regular order in Congress, we have to be unified, or Congress members may be confused on how to vote.”

Other key issues received discussion and resolutions, including support for keeping the current Renewable Fuels Standard and developing a single label for E15 fuel to be used everywhere, in order to prevent confusion among consumers. NCGA opposed single-state rules on GMO labeling in order to prevent having 50 different sets of regulations. The resolution supports the FDA’s power to pre-empt rules on agricultural biotechnology products, passed by individual states.

Another NCGA resolution opposes tying crop insurance eligibility to conservation compliance, arguing that the current farm program already provides a robust means to ensure conservation compliance by requiring farmers obey conservation rules in order to receive any form of federal farm support.

“We put a resolution together to say that ‘We support local ownership of corn processing, livestock and grain operations,'” Schwarz reported. He said, “The local ownership part is what really gets the value back to our rural communities and provides a good consistent tax base for rural communities. We wanted to put this down in black and white, so that when the next new thing comes along that makes use of farm products… whether it’s biochemicals, or nutriceuticals or energy–we are on record that we support local ownership so that we get some of those dollars back to local communities. We have seen that value with ethanol companies and livestock facilities in Minnesota and we want to support these industries and keep them strong. This is not just about farmer ownership, but also supporting our neighbors in town owning businesses that add value to agricultural commodities, as long as it’s local–if it’s an ethanol plant in a farming community or a biochemical company in a Minnesota suburb–whenever we can have some local ownership we get so much more out of it than if some large multinational company owns it.”

A number of first-timers to Commodity Classic joined the veterans, and saw for themselves that the three-day event deserves its reputation for being an incredibly valuable experience.

“I’ve heard it said how large Commodity Classic is, and how many people there are, and the number of displays, and the awesome scope of things…but seeing it for myself was still amazing,” said Chuck DeGrote, a grower leader on the MCGA board of directors, and a farmer in Clara City who raises corn, soybeans, sugar beets and cattle. He said, “The networking at the exhibition hall, talking to people from other states, people who are active in other commodity organizations, I got to hear what people are thinking about for the future, some of the projects we could be looking into. The people are what make Commodity Classic a special experience.”

DeGrote felt discussions about the Farm Bill and the Renewable Fuels Standard were interesting and gave reason for farmers to work together and to be optimistic about what can be done, even with today’s need for a fiscally constrained approach to the federal government.

Corn takes a star turn in high school student’s video, “Ethanol Rocks!”

Pleasant soundtrack music swells while the smooth camera motion takes the viewer through rows of corn, and allows the eye to follow the pleasing green lines of the stocks and abundant golden grain peeking out of the ears. Then we see the corn leaves waving gently in the breeze, silhouetted by bright sunshine. All the while a narrator gives a simple but convincing set of facts about ethanol.

This visual celebration of corn and ethanol comes to us through the very accomplished video production of high school senior Jason Girouard, of Brimfield, Massachusetts, the winner of the Ethanol Rocks video contest sponsored by National Corn Growers Association. Girouard received $1500 for his winning entry. Freshman Emily Yue from Gilford, Connecticut and senior Lewis Kloster of Minneapolis, Minnesota were both awarded second-place honor and $500 a piece.

Words and phrases like “corn can do so much” “renewable” “replaces millions of gallons of foreign imported oil” and “the highest performing fuel on the market” appear on the screen while the narrator extolls the usefulness of ethanol.

“The purpose of the contest was to get youth interested in learning about renewable fuel while having fun,” said NCGA Ethanol Committee Chair Chad Willis. “However, I think we may have turned a few of the more inquisitive kids into ethanol evangelists. The enthusiasm about their learning experience was the biggest payoff of the project.”

The top three videos can be viewed at

Opportunities for Bright Young Minds

By Agvocate Nick Peterson

Most of us cannot help it.  If you find yourself perusing through all of the Yahoo news stories every other day as they pop up on your home page, you are not alone.  While I do not rely on Yahoo to base my life decisions on, I do use it to brush up on current events that I might be missing out on. I also use Yahoo to find weird or interesting stories that entertain me.  Perhaps it is common among the younger generations, but I assume that on some level, the authors of these short current event stories have at least a shred of credibility. 

The issue that I currently have and am bringing up yet once again is a story that came to my attention last spring on “useless” college majors. This caught my attention because the article listed agriculture as one of the five most useless degrees.

Many people in the agricultural industry most likely have heard or were involved with the backlash that already erupted from this article.  I know my Facebook page, in which I am connected to many agricultural majors and enthusiasts, pretty much exploded.  The reason agricultural enthusiasts were upset (in addition to the damage to our pride) was due to this study misusing statistics to prove a point that is inaccurate. This statistic could potentially drive bright young students away from seeking a degree in an agricultural profession. 

The best defense is a good offense. 

I recently spoke with a professor of mine at the University of Minnesota, Dr. Vernon Cardwell.  We spoke about the current state of the agricultural field and its demand for Bachelor of Science majors.    According to the conversations he has had with industry professionals, as well as the attention that companies in the industry have directed at us undergraduate students, the demand for Bachelor of Science graduates is almost twice the supply.  As a junior pursuing my Applied Plant Science degree at the University of Minnesota, this information makes me feel pretty good about my future. 

Dr. Cardwell also mentioned that the majority of this push by the industry for Bachelor of Science graduates comes from a need for more knowledgeable agronomists.  Seed companies, such as Monsanto and Pioneer, have realized that the seed market depends on more than just the bag of seed.  The ability of a seed representative to place each bag of seed in the field or each soil type that will garner the highest yields is a must.  Therein lies the need for more qualified agronomists to either place that seed or train the seed representative who will. 

Winfield’s Answer Plots are an example of an attempt by seed companies to engage with growers on a more knowledgeable, cutting edge level.  By looking at current field issues and ways to correct or prevent them in the future, they are selling agronomic advice in addition to the traditional product sales.  As evidenced by the success that programs such as these Answer Plots have brought to their companies, this is a valuable business tool.  Since this area is only expanding, it will mean more jobs for agronomists. 

The industry of plant breeding relies heavily on the ever evolving molecular and genetic lab processes to produce the high yielding hybrids and varieties we see planted today.  Dollars invested in research and development by seed companies certainly are not dwindling with the high corn and soybean prices.  These companies are looking for graduates with lab experience to fuel their research.  For example, Pioneer just opened a $40 million plant genetics research facility that will create 400 new jobs.

This is an opportunity for graduates who may not even have an interest in the agronomic field, but rather enjoy lab and molecular level work. 

One part of the agricultural industry that is under-appreciated when comparing ag majors to others majors is the availability and profitability of internships.  First, in many other majors or professions, internships might not even be paid.  These are invaluable opportunities for undergraduates to both help pay for schooling as well as get real world, on the job experience.  Second, internships often lead to full time positions following graduation. Third, the wide availability of internships to undergraduate students is something that I feel few other professions can offer.  Whether it is through fall internship fairs on campus, direct searches, or virtual job agents through programs such as GoldPass at the U of M (through which a rough estimate of forty internships were posted and sent to my email inbox this fall), agriculture is one industry that does not fail to give prospective employees hands on work experience. 

I realize that it may be difficult for graduates to start a farming business on their own without a personal or family connection to a farm due to the high land prices and capital investment. However, this is not where the bulk of agricultural jobs are located.  The agronomist positions, plant breeding, and lab positions are where the real demand for agricultural jobs are located; these areas are booming right now.  In my Applied Plant Science major at the University of Minnesota, the students boast close to a one hundred percent placement rate following graduation.  This is why I don’t see myself as concerned about my future as other students in other majors at this university.

It is time for the younger generation to realize all the opportunities we have in agriculture. Misused statistics that pop up on laptops should not deter students from considering studying this industry.  The growth of the agricultural field is spurring our food production. Making the decision to pursue a career in agriculture is one that I have never looked back on throughout my collegiate career and I know that I will not regret it in the future.

MARL Class VI graduates, including four leaders with MCGA connections

The Minnesota Agricultural and Rural Leadership (MARL) program recently graduated its sixth class of mid-career leaders with a concluding weekend seminar and graduation event held in Chaska. The year-and-a-half long seminar series, organized through Southwest Minnesota State University in Marshall, is considered the most prestigious and rigorous training that focuses on leadership for agriculture.

The thirty two leaders of MARL VI were drawn from across the state and from a number of different agriculture industries. They include four leaders connected to Minnesota Corn Growers Association: farmer/MCGA members Rochelle Krusemark of Trimont, Kirby Hettver of Montevideo and Ian Sandager of Hills, as well as MCGA staffer Elizabeth Tanner, director of advocacy and strategic partnerships.

The group returned from a ten day visit to Morocco earlier in March. This international experience, along with a weeklong experience in Washington, DC, form the highlights of a series of seminars that also take the leaders to locations all around the state of Minnesota, to give them in-depth exposure to the various regions and economic segments of the state.

Three hundred people, including many MARL alumni and agricultural industry leaders, attended the MARL graduation ceremony and dinner, which took place at the Oakridge Conference Center in Chaska.

“MARL has been awesome, I am so grateful for this experience,” said Tanner.

She said the leadership course included tools for self-reflection and measuring progress in areas like emotional intelligence, which is a key skill/knowledge area for any leader.

Asked about how MARL has shaped and developed his leadership abilities, Ian Sandager said: “MARL has helped me to be able to speak more knowledgeably and to be able to debate and discuss issues respectfully, to see where we can meet in the middle and where we can’t. It’s helped me develop more patience in those situations. I am more passionate about my issues, but at the same time I have been able to increase my ability to speak about them in a respectful manner.”

Sandager went on to describe how knowing yourself more fully gives you the ability to lead more successfully. Just this year he joined the local board of directors for Rock County Corn and Soybean Growers Association.

“The big thing for me about MARL is assertiveness and being self-aware about my emotions,” Sandager said. “Overall I think I have grown quite a bit. The things they have you do, looking at yourself and the different measurements and testing you go through cause you to reflect, and it helps you to improve. It’s been challenging and at times it’s not fun, but I definitely recommend this program to anyone who wants to improve their leadership skills and knowledge base.”

Rochelle Krusemark farms in Trimont with her husband, and they raise corn and soybeans, and contract-finish hogs. Their sons remain involved in farming despite one being a full-time college student and the other pursuing his career as an aerospace engineer.

She found the trip to Morocco to be everything it was advertised as an eye-opening experience of a very different culture and its agriculture industries.

“We saw both sides,” said Krusemark. “We saw the small farmer that brings his produce by donkey and markets it in the open markets in the city, and then there is the other scale where we visited farmers with thousands of acres of peaches, olives, almonds, pears, oranges and lemons. We visited a huge cooler warehouse –an individual farmer had this set up so he could box his produce for shipping.”

Kirby Hettver, 37, is a farmer and ag equipment/seed entrepreneur.

In addition to farming corn, soybeans, alfalfa and small grains with his father and two brothers, Kirby sells after-market planter parts to improve performance, and equipment to manage dust at grain storage facilities, as well as selling seed corn and soybeans.

“The value of this Morocco trip to me was the appreciation of what we have,” said Hettver who represents, with his two brothers, the fifth generation of his family to farm on their land in Montevideo. Hettver said, “The vast contrast between the micro small farms and the large ones in Morocco–it was hard to find average size farms like ours. There were so many obvious differences, from the services available to farmers there, to the social fabric of their society. I came back thankful for what we have in the US. Looking at it from a Moroccan’s perspective, the one word I would use to describe their situation is ‘opportunity.’ There are a lot of positive changes going on for them. We visited a dairy coop where they were feeding calves to harvest weight, coordinating that system and making leaps and bounds in improvements to those coop members. Improvements in technology and efficiency are coming. More products are becoming available to Moroccans, products of a higher, more consistent quality for the Moroccan marketplace…I am excited to watch their progress and see where they are ten, 15 years down the line.”

Hettver, who is involved in his local corn and soybeans association in Chippewa County, hopes to go on to involvement with the organization at the state level.

“From a leadership standpoint the international trip was a culmination of what we learned,” said Hettver. “It put us in an atmosphere very unlike the US–The contrast, the perspective, helps mold your thought process, the way you approach different subjects. I think this process has helped me become a better leader.”

Tanner said that observing the changing political landscape in Morocco at firsthand was its own lesson in leadership. She found the briefing with the US Ambassador’s economic adviser and his agriculture advisor to be incredibly interesting.

“In the Arab Spring, Morocco underwent changes last year–not as revolutionary as in some countries, but still major changes,” Tanner reported. “The constitution was amended this past summer, and one of the most important changes was that the legislature now must have a certain number of women, a certain number of youths represented in Congress. An election was held in November…the new constitution set a minimum of 60 women members and 66 women were elected to parliament–that shows that the changes there are not just superficial. And while we were there, there was a lot going on at the Moroccan embassy. That afternoon, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton came into town as part of an international relations event.”

It was also another sign of how deeply the world has changed in the past decade. Clinton attended a groundbreaking for new embassy building in Rabat. It has been completely redesigned and upgraded as part of the continuing security overalls that came in the wake of 9/11 and US involvement in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The final meeting in Chaska was a chance for all the MARL leaders to look back and take stock. Krusemark has noticed how her approach to leadership has changed in the past year and a half.

“I really appreciate MCGA’s support of the MARL program,” said Krusemark. “Until you participate in it, you don’t realize the benefits. My husband says he can see the change in me–personally, I have become more discerning. Many of us that are leaders tend to be analytical, and often we see things in a black and white way. I am a former educator. I was in special education, so I appreciate diversity, and I always have, but being among the MARL leaders, which is such a diverse group, I appreciate diversity even more. Everyone has something different to offer, brings up things you never would have thought of. Another side benefit that I have loved is that we get to talk specifically about ag production when we get together. What’s working and what isn’t on our own farms, whether it’s the sprayer nozzles we just started using or tile drainage set up we have.”

Sandager said it was fascinating to see in Morocco an extremely different culture and geography and yet to see past those differences to commonalities between the two countries’ agriculture systems.

“At the most basic level, they face are the same issues we do,” said Sandager. “They need to find markets for their production. They’re trying to get the most money for their buck. Water is a big issue. A couple of farms we visited were converting to drip irrigation, which is much more efficient because less water is lost in evaporation. The thing is, because the government is subsidizing the change, everyone is going that way, and that’s led to an overall increase in water use–and that’s a scarce resource for them.”

Sandager also enjoyed learning about one of Morocco’s major industries–it’s second in the world in olive oil production. Sandager enjoyed learning about how the national school of agriculture collaborates with private industry to solve problems and continue to strengthen the quality of production, the consistency of the product and the Morocco’s position in the world market.

“We did some learning before the trip in Windom about different cultures, trying to recognize the differences and yet still being able to work together,” said Sandager. “You are forced to adapt or get left behind. You realize that people are different from you and you respect that and try to understand that, understand where they are coming from when they talk about an issue.”

Sandager, whose uncle Gene “Pucky” Sandager, is a past president of MCGA, looks forward to participating in the state level of farm organizations.

“I want to get involved in voicing the issues and having an impact on the things that are affecting agriculture and our way of life,” Sandager said.

AC Knights make a big splash for renewable energy at ultralight competition

Written by Jonathan Eisenthal

The Shell Eco-Marathon(R) Challenge in Houston is like the Olympics of student ultralight vehicle competitions, and out of the scores of teams, the Alden-Conger High school team (in south central Minnesota), called the Knights, won first place in the biodiesel category with a calculated fuel efficiency of 674 miles per gallon. The Knight’s E100 car–running pure ethanol fuel just like the Indy500 racers–placed second with an incredible 1,020 miles per gallon. It was the second year in a row that they garnered the silver in the E100 competition.

“It’s a very good program. It’s lots of fun,” said Jacob Sorensen, a junior now in his second year participating in the AC Knight’s supermileage teams. This year he served as team captain for the E100 vehicle, and served as driver in the competition. Sorensen said, “There’s never a dull moment, you’re always doing something, fixing something, working with your buddies. It takes a lot of initiative. What I love about it is you get a little taste of everything-math, chemistry, aerodynamics, engineering, fabricating–I think I’ll get to college and know what like and it will really help me hit the ground running. We have great advisors and sponsors helping us do this event every year.”

The biodiesel vehicle employs a chrome-moly frame to accommodate the incredible torque offered by a diesel engine. Chrome moly is both stronger and lighter than steel an. Team manager Drew Folie and driver Tommy Geesman led the biodiesel team to victory.

Alden-Conger will go on to compete in the MTEEA Supermileage Challenge that will take place Monday and Tuesday, May 14 and 15, at the Brainerd International Speedway. It will swap out the E100 engine in favor a Briggs and Stratton engine designed specifically for E85–the high ethanol fuel blend available at over 350 fueling stations across the state, made specifically for the growing number of Detroit-made cars, SUVs and light trucks with flexible fuel engine systems.

Alden-Conger has fielded ultra-light vehicles there for the past thirteen years, in a program headed by high school chemistry teacher Dave Bosma. The teams received ample assistance from advisers Jerry Reyerson, James Sorensen, Bob Korman, Curt Helland at the Houston competition.

More information about the Supermileage Challenge can be found at

Sorensen estimated that he and many other team members each put about 150 to 200 hours into getting ready for the ultralight vehicle competitions over the course of the year.

Sorensen, along with teammate Holly Reinke are featured in a video created by Shell during the first day of the competition. Also interviewed is Semira Kern from Granite Falls High School’s team, Shop Girls, who had a very good showing in the biodiesel competition. You can view the video at:

Another star of the video is the Knight’s E100 vehicle, shown in all its glory.

“The shell is clear lexon,” said Sorensen. “It’s a really hard, impact resistant plastic that’s very aerodynamic. We use an aluminum frame. One of the cool things about the vehicle is you can see right through into where the driver sits and the engine, transmission and all the mechanicals in the car. It’s 28 inches off the ground, eight feet long, 36-inches at wide at its widest. Our design replicates the raindrop–nature’s most aerodynamic shape—wide in front with two wheels and tapering to one wheel in the back. Our chemistry teacher, Dave Bosma, came up with the design. This is his 13th year. He’s great at getting the kids involved, and keeping them together on the mission.”

Minnesota Biofuels Association promotes, educates and advocates on behalf of farm-based energy

By Jonathan Eisenthal

It’s a three-pronged strategy to assure the strength and continuing growth of Minnesota’s biggest homegrown energy source, farm-based biofuels.

“We’re looking at promotional media efforts, educational projects for the schools and advocacy projects to fight for good energy policy in Saint Paul—with these three simultaneous approaches we’re aiming to make a positive impact on economic, environmental, educational and public policies regarding renewable, farm-based energy,” said Tim Rudnicki, who became executive director of the newly created Minnesota Biofuels Association on September 1.

At a billion gallons of annual production, employing 18,000 Minnesotans and bringing $6 billion dollars of economic activity each year, ethanol is a dynamic and important industry in Minnesota. And yet, it’s still plagued by public misperceptions and the potential for misinformation in the halls of the legislature is an ongoing risk. So the seven founding ethanol companies came together to create the Minnesota Biofuels Association to help ensure the future of ethanol and other biofuels in our state.

The eight producer members at this time are: Al-Corn Clean Fuel, Claremont; Central Minnesota Ethanol Coop, Little Falls; Chippewa Valley Ethanol Company, Benson; CornPlus, Winnebago; Granite Falls Energy, Granite Falls; Guardian Energy, Janesville; Heartland Corn Products, Winthrop; and Highwater Ethanol, Lamberton.

The organization plans to create new membership categories, to allow other organizations and individuals beyond the ethanol producers themselves to join MBA.

“When it comes to promotion we’re talking about raising awareness through advertising,” said Rudnicki. “We recently launched ads that are appearing in local theaters. The message is that we do have a solution to our energy needs in hand, available right here and right now. We don’t have to wait for some grand magic. We have this fuel now. Our 30-second ad features visual motion and music and a voice over and comes on as a leader before the previews begin. We’re running this in a pilot phase in Minneapolis, where we are expecting 80,000 to 100,000 impressions. Next, we are going to be launching some ad campaigns for radio around the beginning of the year. We are targeting both metro and rural areas, and we anticipate reaching 400,000 listeners a week.”

Rudnicki praised Minnesota Ag in The Classroom, a curriculum program from Minnesota Department of Agriculture, which has long received significant support from Minnesota Corn Growers Association. The Minnesota Bio-Fuels Associationplans to support further development of modules that offer the latest information about ethanol and biodiesel.

At the level of secondary education, it’s important to share with students the broad variety of jobs offered by Minnesota’s renewable energy sector. Rudnicki likes to give the example of a recent University of Minnesota-Morris graduate in biochemistry who is now employed in the research laboratory at an ethanol facility. She is working on cutting edge technology with the potential to increase the efficiency and yield of the ethanol process.

“You’ve got all these different positions on the production side, instrument technicians, maintenance workers, team leaders, microbiologists, controllers in these operations, plant managers, general managers, to mention just a few of the types of jobs ethanol creates,” said Rudnicki. “When people pass by an ethanol plant what do they see? We want to say there’s no need to guess what’s happening in there, we will inform you. Once we get our web site up and running we will be a clearing house, not just for what type of positions are out there, but a whole spectrum of information and resources – for the general public, for policy makers and for industry producers.”

Minnesota Biofuels Association will concentrate its efforts on creating a groundswell around the notion that consumers should have expanded fuel choice options that include E85 as well as E15 and E20.

“The old shorthand about what farmers produce is three Fs—food, fiber, fuel, but I add that four more have become a vital part of what farmers offer us: Freedom From Fossil Fuels,” said Rudnicki. “If people have the choice, why not feel good about what you are putting in your fuel tank. If consumers have the choice of using homegrown, renewable biofuel, or finite fossil fuel, I think most people would choose using more homegrown, renewable motor fuel.People would feel good about what they are doing for the environment by using clean burning fuel and feel good about what they are doing for the economy.”

Rudnicki comes to role of executive director at Minnesota Biofuels Association having spent the last 15 years as an energy and environmental attorney, during which time he focused on using the law and the legislative process to find solutions for clients. His specialty has been working on policy issues to promote homegrown, renewable energy. Rudnicki has served as executive director in previous advocacy, promotional and educational efforts launched by businesses and non-governmental organizations.

“For a long time it’s been my passion and what I have been talking about continually–seeing renewable energy as a solution to our economic, environmental and national security problems,” said Rudnicki. “So when this position at MBA became available, it was a perfect fit.”