In comments submitted to the Senate Agriculture Committee, the American Soybean Association (ASA) pointed to the record-setting production of biodiesel from American soy, as well as the success of biobased products. The comments came at a Feb. 15 hearing titled “Energy & Economic Growth for Rural America.”

ASA President Steve Wellman, a soybean farmer from Syracuse, Neb., pointed to farm bill energy programs that have a direct and tangible impact on the soybean industry -- namely the Biodiesel Fuel Education Program and the Biobased Market Program.

“The Biodiesel Education Program plays a vital role in helping expand marketplace acceptance and use of biodiesel as a low-carbon, renewable diesel replacement fuel,” stated Wellman. “It supports technical outreach efforts to engine manufacturers, truckers, and fuel marketers that will eventually allow the use of higher biodiesel blends in conventional diesel applications. The education program serves to expand and increase market penetration, thus promoting growth for the entire industry.  This translates into higher production, more jobs, and more economic value, especially in rural communities.”

Wellman pointed to the industry’s record production in 2011 as evidence of biodiesel’s impact on and pertinence to the nation’s energy discussion. Last year, the biodiesel industry produced a record 1.1 billion gallons, which supported more than 39,000 jobs, generated income over $1.7 billion, and created more than $3 billion in GDP. Wellman also highlighted the significant contribution of biodiesel to rural economic development, citing that all but a handful of the approximately 170 biodiesel production facilities in the U.S. are located in rural areas; approximately half of the annual biodiesel production is from soybean oil and nearly all of the feedstock used to produce biodiesel is grown or originates in rural areas. 

Wellman also spoke to the importance of biobased products as successful market vehicles for soybeans, highlighting the contribution of the Biobased Markets Program to the overall development of the market segment.

“The Biobased Market Program continues and expands the federal biobased procurement program and voluntary labeling program,” stated Wellman. “This is an effective and important program for promoting the emerging biobased industry, which has significant potential to enhance agricultural markets, displace foreign petroleum and fossil fuels, and contribute new “green” jobs to the economy.”

In his statement to the committee during the hearing, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack shared Wellman’s assessment of the importance of the burgeoning biobased products market, saying "A bioproducts sector marries two of the most important economic engines for rural America: agriculture and manufacturing. Today, there are more than 3,100 companies across the country producing more than 25,000 biobased products.”

ASA, its industry partners and its allies on Capitol Hill have led efforts to promote federal support for biobased product development through the program. ASA is a leader and founding member of the Biobased Products Coalition, a group of companies that make biobased products and ingredients, and agricultural organizations that represent the feedstock providers for the biobased products.