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Renewable fuels and livestock production go hand in hand

Fri, Jan 21st, 2005
Posted in Commentary

The legislative session has begun, and much attention has been focused on Governor Pawlentys Livestock Advisory Task Force. While Governor Pawlenty has not yet formally reviewed the recommendations of the task force, I expect the final report to be shortly forth coming.According to the Minnesota Agricultural Statistics, Minnesotas livestock production is $4.3 billion annually and accounts for over half of Minnesotas agricultural sales. Along with these production totals this industry means jobs many in rural Minnesota. This industry by anyones assessment is an important economic engine. As Chair of the Agriculture and Rural Development Policy Committee in the House of Representatives, I applaud the Governor for forming the Livestock Task Force. This action is an acknowledgement that our livestock industry is at a crossroads. Challenges to the livestock industry include; local siting of livestock operations, an inconsistent permitting and environmental review process that is not timely and predictable, access to capital, and needed research to improve profitability on the farm. These issues beg attention by the legislature and making reasonable changes that address these concerns are essential.There is another critical point that needs to be made as we look to address these issues with the livestock industry. Minnesota is lucky to be home to 14 ethanol plants, and that number will rise in the near future. This is encouraging, but much of their success depends on a vibrant livestock industry. The ethanol plants need to be able to feed the dried distillers grains or DDGs to livestock. The Minnesota Corn Growers tell me that 55 percent of Minnesota grown corn goes to livestock feed - or around 550 million bushels each year. That is a mountain of corn and much of it is coming from our plant after making ethanol. As a state we need to make sure the value-added business of feeding DDGs to livestock happens in Minnesota and that our ethanol plants can succeed by having an outlet for their product. Additionally, Minnesotas biodiesel requirement of a 2 percent blend provides promise to many soybean growers. We have seen many producers rise to the challenge, and we have strong indications that several facilities in Minnesota will be operational by the end of June to produce biodiesel for our local marketplace. Again, the byproduct of biodiesel often goes to feed livestock. The Minnesota Soybean Growers tell me that the livestock industry is the largest user of soybean meal in Minnesota, consuming 1.8 million tons annually - or 74 million bushels of soybeans.It is my hope that the legislative debate surrounding the Governors Livestock Task Force addresses the need for regulations that provide balance. We can protect the environment and promote livestock production. We need a final legislative plan that encourages livestock production; a plan that realizes that the crop farmer and livestock farmer have a hand and glove relationship. Many are eager to support ethanol and biodiesel but shy away from supporting production livestock facilities. In all honesty we need both businesses operating successfully, because you cant support renewable fuels without supporting livestock operations.

Greg Davids is the Representative from 31B and is the Chair of the Agriculture and Rural Development Policy Committee in the Minnesota House of Representatives.

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