Many crops are now being used to help meet the energy needs of our country. What are your thoughts on the growing roll agriculture is playing in this and what, if any, plans do you have for the state and its farmers on this?
Part of our national, though somewhat ambiguous, energy policy is the pursuit of alternative sources for fuel and energy. Wind and solar energy simply cannot meet the challenges. There have been significant advancements in the quest for cheaper, more effective ethanol and as one of America's leading agricultural states, Louisiana, with the right leadership, can be at the forefront of these developments. With ethanol the current focus is on corn, but there is evidence that sugar cane can offer similar returns and advantages in ethanol production. More research needs to be done before decisions are made, but the prospects of economic development for Louisiana are bright.
My core belief on alternative fuel production in Louisiana is that farmers should have a role in the ownership of these businesses. If their crops are going to be used in the production, they deserve the opportunity to be part of the decision-making process of the facility. It's an exciting time for farmers as they see new prospects for marketing their crops not just as food and fiber but also as energy. We are also nearing a time when technology will allow cellulosic materials like wood chips, switch grass, sugarcane bagasse and rice hulls to be converted into fuel. With this development, the possibilities will be endless for Louisiana's farmers, ranchers and forest landowners.
In 2006 I worked with state legislators, the Louisiana Farm Bureau Federation and others to make Louisiana the leader in the South for alternative fuels production. The minimum standards passed by the Legislature will assist in our economic development efforts to recruit alternative fuels companies to the state. The standards will not kick in if there is a cost to the consumer. I want to assure consumers they will not feel pain at the pump because of these standards.
My plan is to continue recruiting companies to come to Louisiana and build biofuels facilities that include the farmers in their ownership. An example is a syrup mill facility in southwest Louisiana. A company wanted to purchase the mill in Lacassine and I allowed them to purchase it with the agreement that the farmers would still be a partner in the facility and in an adjacent ethanol plant the company plans to build. If the company fails to build the ethanol plant, they lose a hefty "good faith" sum they paid up front.