Recent Press Releases

Washington, D.C. —  Senator John Thune announced the U.S. House of Representatives included a substantial portion of his Biofuels Innovation Program (BIP) in its final version of the 2007 Farm Bill passed by the House on Friday. Thune's legislation is designed to spur the production of cellulosic ethanol to help reduce our nation's dangerous dependence on foreign sources of oil.

"This is a great step forward in making cellulosic ethanol a real, viable alternative fuel to help us meet our growing energy needs," said Thune. "My biofuels legislation is designed to complement the already successful and growing corn-based ethanol industry. If cellulosic ethanol, produced from homegrown sources like corn stover, wheat straw, switchgrass and wood chips, is to achieve its potential then Congress needs to help establish bioenergy facilities and sources of feedstock within reasonable distances of these facilities. My legislation would spur the construction of biorefineries across the country and provide incentives to farmers in surrounding areas to grow perennial energy dedicated crops that can eventually supply these biorefineries in a cost-effective, environment-friendly way."

Senator Thune's BIP legislation, which he introduced in the U.S. Senate May 23rd as S. 36, takes a two-pronged approach to assist farmers and ranchers with the transition to biofuels production. The House-passed 2007 Farm Bill includes a version of Senator Thune's legislation called the Biomass Energy Reserve Program
First, the BIP proposal allows for feasibility studies to be conducted for establishing BIP project areas on land surrounding future biorefinery sites. These studies would evaluate the likelihood of construction of a future biorefinery; the local potential for production of biomass resources, such as switchgrass and fast-growing trees; the number of interested producers; and the economic impact a future biorefinery would have on the local community.

Once a BIP proposal is approved by the USDA, participating producers could enroll eligible land in the BIP program. During the first five years of their BIP contract, or during the timeframe for the biorefinery to be constructed and the establishment of the biofuels crops, producers would receive a cost share for planting energy-dedicated crops and a per-acre rental payment. Once the biorefinery is operational, the rental payment would end and the producer would receive a matching payment.
Secondly, this legislation also authorizes matching payments on a per-ton basis to producers anywhere in the United States who sell crop by-products and residues such as corn stover and straw to biofuels facilities for the production of ethanol or other alternative fuels. These matching payments do not require the feedstock to be produced in a BIP project area, and may be made for up to two years beginning with the date the biofuels facility begins purchasing the feedstock, and are also capped at $45 per ton.
Thune's BIP proposal would also reauthorize the Sun Grant Initiative through 2012. South Dakota State University is one of five Sun Grant universities nationwide conducting valuable research on the production and economical delivery of cellulosic ethanol from the field to the marketplace.

"Gaining ground on energy independence has to be a priority for our country. Ethanol has been a great success story in that challenge and I will continue to seek out ways to make that goal a reality."

Senator Thune is Ranking Member of the Energy Subcommittee of the Senate Agriculture Committee.