US Senator Harkin picks renewable fuels for first hearing

US - Iowa Democrat Tom Harkin officially took up the gavel as Senate Agriculture Committee Chairman Wednesday at the outset of a hearing on renewable fuels, the Committee's first of 2007. It’s Harkin's second tour of duty as Ag Committee chair. He also chaired the committee when Congress wrote the 2002 farm bill.
calendar icon 11 January 2007
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Harkin told his colleagues the last farm bill was a bipartisan document and promised the 2007 edition will be, too. "This is not going to be any kind of Democratic bill or a Republican bill," Harkin said. "It's going to be a bill for all America and for all of rural America."

Harkin also left no doubt that renewable fuels will play a starring role in the next farm bill. "We can, and I believe we must, formulate and pass a farm bill that accelerates the rural production of energy for the whole nation," Harkin said in his opening statement.

USDA Chief Economist Keith Collins was among those testifying at Wednesday's hearing. He faced a variety of questions from numerous Senators about the impact of the booming U.S. ethanol industry on the livestock and poultry sector, the prospects for cellulosic ethanol and his thoughts on potential acreage switches to meet the ethanol industry's ever-growing demand for corn.

On that last topic, Collins said he expects U.S. ag producers are going to plant a lot more corn this year. He cited a survey suggesting corn acres could rise to 86 million this spring. And he said most of the acres going to corn will come at the expense of soybeans. Indeed, Collins posited as much as a 10 million acre decline or more in U.S. soybean acreage from its 2006 level in the years ahead. "You can think back, you know, 15 years ago we had 60 million acres of soybeans - last year we had 75 million," Collins testified. "It's not unthinkable to see soybeans going back down into the 60s and even the low 60s."

Source: Brownfield Ag News

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