Governor Vetos Two Good Biofuels Provisions

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The Governor signed the Agriculture Finance Omnibus Bill last Friday and while the press release talks about how it is good for energy and the environment (and some of it is), it neglects to mention that he line-item vetoed two funding items supported by Clean Energy Minnesota (CEM) to encourage better fuel sources for ethanol.

The Governor axed a $1 million allocation that would have created a loan program to purchase equipment for farmers who are growing native, perennial plants for energy or seed.

He also cut out a $350,000 allocation to Minnesota Institute for Sustainable Agriculture that would have been for farm-scale research of planting a mixture of prairie or perennial plants for the purposes of energy production.  As you likely know, U of M research has demonstrated that planting a variety of prairie plants together dramatically increases the tons of biomass available per acre for energy production (not to mention reduces runoff of pollution into our rivers).  Farm-scale research is needed to figure out some of the details and the allocation would have helped Minnesota be positioned to more quickly develop a better system of ethanol.  The Govern is paraphrased as saying that there are similar programs currently funded in other spending bills (though so far no one has been able to identify a parallel program in another bill to me).

These line-item vetoes, the only two from the bill, total $1.35 million out of the $170 million total package.    There are some good things that received funding (bill text here), but after the disappointing work of the conference committee that removed most of the CEM supported biofuels provisions, these vetoes seem to be one last kick in the pants.

6 Responses to “Governor Vetos Two Good Biofuels Provisions”

  1. Dave Dempsey

    Thanks for helping us see what’s in the fine print. These seemingly insignificant line-item vetoes squander a chance for Minnesota to take a national lead in developing sustainable, rather than environmentally destructive biofuels. The amount of money saved is negligible but the amount of good that now can’t be done through these provisions is huge.

  2. Sundog

    Soooo… how many farmers in Minnesota “are growing native, perennial plants for energy or seed.”…. crickets… crickets… Uh huh. So, it probably is premature to establish a loan program for them — maybe that million could better be used for schools, nursing homes, etc.

    Eye on the ball, folks.

  3. Jon

    There are folks, like Falk Seed, in Murdock selling native and perennial seeds, as well as the conventional lot. I met Jim Falk at the capitol a couple of months ago. He seemed like a real nice guy trying to make a living and do some good things at the same time. Quite frankly, if we are going to increase our use of ethanol, we need it to come from better sources and we need more folks to be growing these plants.

    If we had no one growing these plants, or no need for more, then I’d agree with Sundog. Clearly the legislature isn’t going to spend very much money on the environment for new programs, so I am not one to advocate for a wasteful program that’ll drain money we need elsewhere. Heck, even if this were a grant program that was never paid back, I might think twice. But it is a revolving loan that’ll show a token of appreciation for farmers who are competing against a system that overly subsidizes corn growing. I’d have thought we could at least do a little something for farmers like this.

  4. Sundog

    Well, that helps explain things a little bit. Falk Seed is in Murdock, MN, making Jim Falk a constituent of the House and Senate authors of this $1 million provision (Aaron Peterson and Gary Kubly).

    It’s not a question of whether this is a good idea. I think it is. Its a question of whether its a priority for spending now — and its clearly not. The provision, as Jon points out, is a token for a constituent.

  5. Jon

    I do think this should have been a priority this year. Rahr Malting wants to use grasses or biomass to heat and power their facility in Shakopee, but there aren’t many places to buy the fuel – particularly near their facility. I don’t think that government spending should benefit one for-profit company, but Rahr is an example of the chicken and egg problem we have to overcome. Why would they commit to perennial fuels if unavailability of supply may jeopardize their operations, but why would a farmer invest heavily in a crop if they don’t know they can sell it (particularly when corn is so overly high priced thanks to subsidies)?


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