The Oak Ridger -
U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., on Monday told a meeting of Murfreesboro area farmers that "we need a new Manhattan Project for clean energy independence to lower diesel costs that are crippling your ability to make your farm turn a profit."
Alexander also announced that the Farm Services Agency in Tennessee has issued 28,060 disaster relief payments totaling approximately $60 million to Tennessee farmers hard hit by last year's drought.
''The family budgets of Middle Tennessee farmers are facing a triple threat from higher costs due to $4-per-gallon gasoline, rising diesel prices that make operating farm equipment difficult, and fertilizer costs that are skyrocketing,'' Alexander reportedly said to a gathering of the Rutherford County Farm Bureau during a roundtable discussion on Rising Energy Costs.
In a news release from Alexander's office, the senator said the recently approved Farm Bill could help state farmers because it "reduces the tax credit for corn ethanol and gives a more generous tax credit to produce cellulosic ethanol made from ingredients like switchgrass. It shifts the focus from crops that we eat to crops that we don't eat."
During a speech last month at Oak Ridge National Laboratory, Alexander proposed launching a five-year new Manhattan Project to put America firmly on the path to clean energy independence within a generation. Alexander proposed seven grand challenges to scientists, including making advanced biofuels cost-competitive with gasoline -- an innovation Alexander said would greatly benefit state farmers.
"The goal will be clean energy independence -- so that we can deal with rising fuel prices, electricity prices, clean air, climate change and national security -- for our country first, and -- because other countries have the same urgent needs and therefore will adopt our ideas – for the rest of the world," Alexander stated in the release.
He said the Farm Bill passed by Congress would benefit farmers across the state by:
Supporting an increase in biofuels production;
-Including $300 million in mandatory funding for payments to support the production of biodiesel and cellulosic ethanol;
-Reducing the blender tax credit for corn ethanol by six to 45-cents a gallon;
-Expanding broadband service in rural areas;
-Simplifying application requirements for service while shifting assistance toward areas with no or very limited service;
-Encouraging the purchase of locally-grown produce for the Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Program, which provides fresh fruits and vegetables to low-income school children at no cost.