U.S. Senator Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) today told a meeting of local famers 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."
"The family budgets of West 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 said to a gathering of the Carroll County Farm Bureau during a roundtable discussion on rising energy costs.
“The actions we take today can lower gas prices today,” said Alexander. “The reason that’s true is that today’s price depends so much upon what the expected supply of and demand for oil will be three to five years from now. As soon as the United States shows that it is committed to producing more and using less oil the price of gasoline will begin to stabilize and go down.”
Alexander said the recently passed Farm Bill could help Tennessee 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 in May at Oak Ridge National Laboratory, Alexander proposed launching a 5-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 Tennessee 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 said.
Alexander said that the Farm Bill passed by Congress would benefit farmers across the state by:
• Supporting an increase in biofuels production.
o Provides a $1.01-per-gallon tax credit to produce cellulosic ethanol made from ingredients like switchgrass that grows across Tennessee.
o Includes $300 million in mandatory funding for payments to support the production of biodiesel and cellulosic ethanol.
o Reduces the blender tax credit for corn ethanol by $0.06 to $0.45 per gallon.
• Expanding broadband service in rural areas.
o Simplifies application requirements for service while shifting assistance toward areas with no or very limited service.
• Expanding the Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Program to Tennessee.
o Program provides locally-grown fresh fruits and vegetables to low-income school children at no cost.
Last year, Alexander worked with Senator Corker (R-Tenn) to ensure that Tennessee farmers would be eligible to receive direct disaster payments after the devastating droughts. Alexander said that as of July 7th, Tennessee farmers have received:
• $12.3 million under the Livestock Compensation Program (LCP).
• $38.9 million under the Crop Disaster Program (CDP).
• $41,526 under the Livestock Indemnity Program (LIP).