The Lansing State Journal recently published an noteworthy editorial titled Allen Julian and Peter Pellerito: MSU a good site to sign Farm Bill. Allen Julian is the chief business officer of MBI International and Peter Pellerito is a senior policy Consultant at the Biotechnology Industry Organization. Both provide readers excellent insight to why Michigan was a fitting choice for the final signing of the 2014 Farm Bill:
When President Obama toured the MBI facility and then signed the 2014 Farm Bill into law, he closed the circle on a more-than-two-year effort to enact this important legislation. It was here in October 2011 that our own Sen. Debbie Stabenow, who led the bipartisan effort to get this bill through Congress, launched an initiative to make Farm Bill energy programs more effective for Michigan companies.
Sen. Stabenow’s initiative was called “Grow It Here, Make It Here,” and it started with the simple premise that if we use homegrown technology to manufacture products from renewable agricultural resources, we can grow our economy and jobs. The goal was to combine the strengths of Michigan’s largest economic sectors — agriculture and manufacturing — and leverage them with technology. The recently passed Farm Bill will help companies in Michigan and across the United States do that.
There are more than 80 companies in Michigan that already produce biobased products. The “Grow It Here, Make It Here” initiative called for strengthening the Farm Bill’s energy programs and expanding them to support companies that make biobased products and renewable chemicals, in addition to advanced biofuels. The final Farm Bill incorporated that initiative, completing an important and long-overdue revision. This sector has plenty of room to grow in the state, since Michigan is also home to 600 bioscience companies employing more than 40,000 people.
Although it’s one of the smaller titles in the Farm Bill, the agriculture energy programs have produced huge benefits for rural communities. Farm Bill energy programs have already established a strong track record of reducing energy reliance in agriculture, sparking many projects using homegrown sources and introducing new sources of biomass energy from energy crops. These are outsized benefits from less than 1 percent of total Farm Bill outlays.
Technologies that can tap into abundant agricultural resources and sustainably create additional sources of food, fuels, and chemicals are key to Michigan’s future economic growth. The programs leverage private investment, requiring at least a $3 match for each $1 of federal funds. They also create jobs, with the USDA estimating more than 13,000 jobs created or saved over the past few years. They help farmers to introduce new crops for renewable energy, which EPA estimates will create more than 3,400 new jobs. While touring MBI with Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, President Obama observed a biomass pretreatment technology, AFEX, that can have a profound impact on our ability to meet growing demand for food, feed, renewable fuels and chemicals while bringing economic development to rural areas. This technology, jointly developed by Michigan State University and MBI, addresses the logistical and process challenges of converting agricultural residues into biobased fuels, chemicals and animal feeds. It is an example of the collaborative development effort that Farm Bill programs can foster.
The Farm Bill of 2014 is vital for Michigan’s economic growth, technology development and job formation. We appreciate President Obama’s tribute to Sen. Stabenow, who played an essential role in ensuring that this legislation passed, by finishing the bill where it began.