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Groups Push for Energy Focus at Summit
Wednesday, March 4, 2015 5:02PM CST

By Chris Clayton
DTN Ag Policy Editor

OMAHA (DTN) -- Supporters of renewable energy from agriculture want to see Republican presidential candidates declare their support for renewables, or at least recognize the role of renewable energy in the rural economy.

Twenty-four major agricultural and renewable trade associations signed a letter calling on presidential hopefuls speaking this weekend at the Iowa Ag Summit to take note that Iowa is ranked at or near the top for production of ethanol, biodiesel and wind power.

"Our collective hope is that as you convene to discuss matters of importance to Iowa agriculture, renewable energy will be a primary topic of conversation," the groups wrote.

Iowa businessman Bruce Rastetter put together the Iowa Ag Summit for Saturday with a lineup of confirmed speakers oriented heavily around at least 12 potential Republican presidential candidates. About 900 people are expected to attend the event in Des Moines.

Ernie Shea, project coordinator for the 25x'25 Alliance, said the agricultural groups want to point out to the presidential candidates that agriculture has changed and renewable energy is a part of the production that comes from a farm. "When you get into conversations about ag, you get into conversations about energy," Shea said. "Energy is part of the new ag."

The groups pointed out that biofuels "have added $13.1 billion to Iowa's economy, generated $4.1 billion in new household income, and created and supported 62,000 jobs statewide." "Overall, Iowa accounts for 30% of total U.S. biofuels production," the groups wrote.

Iowa farmers have demonstrated they can fuel and feed the planet at the same time," said Ron Heck, an Iowa soybean and corn producer, a former president of the American Soybean Association and a founder of the 25x'25 Alliance.

At least some of the GOP candidates have taken policy stances seeking to end renewable mandates or modify them. Others have opposed extending tax credits for biodiesel or wind development. Conservative groups that donate heavily to GOP candidates are taking more aggressive action to get state and federal officials to reject policies backing renewable energy.

"What they ought to do is pay attention to what clean energy from farms and ranches is all about," Shea said. "This is not a partisan issue. This is about rural economic development, this is about the environmental improvements of these industries, this is about national security."

Clean energy has been a major economic engine in rural states that helped them while much of the country faced a recession, Shea noted.

The farm and renewable groups added in their letter, "Renewable energy development should be a priority of policymakers on both sides of the aisle. We have demonstrated we can harness energy from the sun. We know how to capture the wind. We grow fuels from seed. We can manufacture the components to undertake all these industries here on our own soil. This ability to provide homegrown energy reduces our dependency on foreign fuels, improves the economy and enhances our national security."

Groups signing the letter on Tuesday included 25x'25 Alliance, the American Farm Bureau Federation, the National Farmers Union, the American Council on Renewable Energy, the National Corn Growers Association, the American Soybean Association, the National and Iowa Biodiesel Boards, the American Solar Energy Society, CropLife America, and the American Wind Energy Association.

Chris Clayton can be reached at chris.clayton@dtn.com


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