U.S. Senator Lamar Alexander (R-TN) 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."
Alexander also announced that the Farm Services Agency in Tennessee has issued 19,079 disaster relief payments totaling approximately $51 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 said to a gathering of the Rutherford County Farm Bureau during a roundtable discussion on Rising Energy Costs.
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 last month 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 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 $.06 to $.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.
• Encouraging the purchase of locally-grown produce for the Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Program.
o Program provides fresh fruits and vegetables to low-income school children at no cost.