A word that few people even knew just five years ago when the last farm bill was written is all over the Bush administration’s 2007 farm bill proposals released Wednesday. That word is “cellulosic.”
As announced last week, the proposals include $1.6 billion in new funding for renewable energy research, development and production, targeted for cellulosic ethanol, which will support $2.1 billion in guaranteed loans for cellulosic projects and includes $500 million for a bio-energy and bio-based product research initiative.
In addition, the conservation proposal includes incentives for production of biomass on land in the Conservation Reserve Program. Natural Resources Conservation Service Chief Arlen Lancaster said, “We would prioritize those lands that would be used for growing cellulosic crops like perennial grasses that continue to provide a soil benefit and a wildlife benefit.”
Cellulosic is also a part of the forestry proposal. “We’re proposing to initiate a new $150 million wood-to-energy program as part of the president’s mission to expand the use of renewable and alternative fuels,” said Johanns. “To accelerate development of new technologies to use low-value woody biomass to produce energy. We have an abundance of this around the country.”
In an interview with Secretary Johanns after the announcement, he said the emphasis on moving toward cellulosic ethanol will help address the concerns that have been raised about increased demand for corn. “I think the livestock industry was very concerned that what we would be proposing is promoting more corn-based ethanol. Our proposals are targeted at cellulosic ethanol. We believe this is the next step.”
Listen to the ethanol portion of my interview with Johanns: Johanns Interview (2:45 min MP3)
Details of the administration farm bill proposals can be found at www.usda.gov/farmbill.