MONROE – As competition between food and bioenergy drives up prices of corn, soybeans and other farm commodities, Louisiana has untapped land that could be put into production for alternative crops, according to agricultural industry observers.
Louisiana can take advantage of these resources to participate effectively in the move toward growing new plants as raw materials – or feedstocks – to produce biofuels, said Kelsey Short, director of agriculture, forestry and food industries with Louisiana Economic Development.
“Alternative feedstocks place Louisiana in a strong competitive position,” Short told a gathering of nearly 200 agricultural producers and representatives of industry, government and higher education for the 2008 AgOutlook Conference Feb. 25-27 here.
The conference on agriculture and renewable energy opportunities was sponsored by the LSU AgCenter, Louisiana Department of Agriculture and Forestry (LDAF), Louisiana Farm Bureau and U.S. Department of Agriculture agencies USDA Rural Development and Natural Resources Conservation Service.
The purpose of the conference was “bringing factions of agriculture together and discussing important topics,” said LSU AgCenter Chancellor Bill Richardson.
“Energy is the new gold exchange,” said Mike Strain, LDAF commissioner. Energy policies have joined the farm bill as important factors in U.S. agriculture, said Dr. Abner Womack, senior economist with the Food and Agricultural Policy Research Institute at the University of Missouri.
“Easy oil runs out about 2025,” he said. Then, fossil fuel suppliers will begin turning to tar sands in Canada and coal and oil shale in the United States.
“We have plenty of energy in front of us, but it’s going to cost more to get,” Womack said. “The secondary level of energy becomes more expensive.”
Womack called the energy bill “far more important than any farm bill we’ll ever pass.”
(This article was published in the winter 2008 issue of Louisiana Agriculture.)