Americas farmers and ranchers can and must be an integral part of the nations renewable energy industry, and legislation that would promote agricultures role in generating valuable energy should become law, the American Farm Bureau Federation told a House small business panel.

"The potential for our farmers, our consumers, our environment, our economy and our national security is staggering," Pennsylvania Farm Bureau President Guy Donaldson told the panel. "We are close to realizing this potential. We simply cannot miss this opportunity."

Donaldson told the Small Business Subcommittee on Rural Enterprises, Agriculture and Technology that the Renewable Fuels for Energy Security Act of 2001 (HR 2423) is the "type of policy that must be implemented to bring prosperity back to rural America and energy security back to the United States." The measure would require 5% of the nations fuel to contain renewable energy by 2016.

The increased use of corn-based ethanol and soybean-based biodiesel mandated by the legislation will benefit the nation, Donaldson told the panel. The Adams County, PA, fruit producer said a larger role for renewable energy would help the farm economy by providing increased income to producers, also slashing the amount of money the federal government spends in the form of farm support payments.

"It will provide an income to our corn and soybean farmers from the marketplace, not the federal governmentand farmers and the government should work toward that goal," said Donaldson, a member of the AFBF board of directors.

The farm leader also spoke about other emerging renewable energy technology, on which farmers and ranchers are willing to capitalize. He told the panel that "a great deal of interest" exists in farm country in building wind and solar generators on farms. He also called for continued research into other technologies, including capturing methane from livestock manure and converting manure into heat-generating fuel.

"We all gain when we better utilize all of the production from our farms and ranches," Donaldson said. "The technology to use these sources is in the research lab. With a new demand created for bio-based energy, that technology continues to develop and to become economically viable."

Donaldson reiterated agricultures potential to produce energy. He said, if allowed the necessary time and allotted the necessary resources, farm-produced energy would be a major component of the nations energy mix.

"Farmers and ranchers long have provided safe and affordable food to this nation," Donaldson said. "We will continue to do so. But as we have produced such an abundance of food, agriculture needs to provide energy as well. We can."

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