Bio-Fuel Industry Influenced By State Agriculture

Friday, May 23rd 2008, 8:23 am
By: News On 6

The outlook for Oklahoma farmers and rural Oklahoma in general, is extraordinarily bright.

News On 6 reporter Alex Cameron reports those words were from a top Bush administration official who visited the Sooner state Thursday.

Tom Dorr is the United States Department of Agriculture's Under Secretary for Rural Development.

Dorr discussed a variety of topics from the 2008 Farm Bill, to food prices and Oklahoma's role in the bio-fuel industry.

"You've got a very interesting group in Ardmore, The Noble Foundation, that's done some very unique work in switch grass," Dorr said.

Speaking Thursday at Langston University's annual small farmer's conference, Tom Dorr applauded Oklahoma for helping lead the way in making cellulosic ethanol a viable energy source and encouraged the state's agriculture sector not to stop there.

"It's important that we in rural America appreciate the opportunities we're being confronted with," Dorr said.

Dorr said the opportunity is there, whether through the sale of wind rights, the sale of water rights, or the production of fuel fibers, for rural America to significantly cut into the six billion barrels of foreign oil the nation imports each year, and help themselves at the same time.

"If we can displace one billion barrel equivalent of that imported crude that today is $130 billion, that's almost 50 % more, it's more than 50 % more than the net farm income and it's all rural in origin," Dorr said.

Dorr said rural Oklahoma, rural America clearly is part of the solution to the nation's present energy woes, and a big reason why he believes the future is so bright right now for this segment of society.

"That means we're creating high value jobs, that means that there are jobs for young people that either want to stay or return to rural America, and this is the first time that we've had this kind of an opportunity to do it," Dorr said.

Dorr also acknowledged that mandated ethanol production has had an impact on food prices, but only a minor one, and says the primary driver of food prices right now is increased demand worldwide.