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Posted on  

May 2, 2002

Bush fuels the value added fire with support

As President Bush spoke at an ethanol plant in Wentworth, S.D. last week, he stressed the importance of passing an energy policy bill which includes renewable fuels and having a completed farm bill on his desk soon. Senate majority leader Tom Daschle, who was in attendance, must have taken the assignment seriously for by week's end, the completion of both the energy bill and the framework for a new farm bill was announced.

Bush left little doubt about his support for renewable fuels during his speech to 1,000 attendees invited by South Dakota Congressman John Thune to the Dakota Ethanol plant, which processes 14 million bushels of corn annually. The President said he looked forward to signing an energy bill that would make America more self-sufficient in energy.

"I said when I was running for president, I supported ethanol and I mean it. I support it now, because not only do I know it's importance for the ag sector of our economy, it's an important part of making sure we become less reliant on foreign sources of energy," said Bush.

Bush's endorsement of the agriculture industry as a whole was established long before he became president as his hometown of Crawford, Texas is largely dependent on agriculture business.

"American agriculture is incredibly important for our economic viability," said Bush. "I think I have a pretty good handle on the importance of agriculture for the future of this country. And one of the most important ways to make sure the agriculture economy is strong is to promote value-added processing."

Richard Kjerstad of Wall, S.D., participated in a private round-table discussion with Bush, along with other producers and ag-industry professionals prior to Bush's speech. Kjerstad was encouraged by Bush's support of agriculture.

"I think President Bush feels that by doing some of these other things, by becoming more self-sufficient and by actually getting behind the ethanol and soydiesel, that maybe if we had good programs in that area we may not need as big a farm bill. And I think most producers would rather receive their income from the marketplace than from the government," said Kjerstad, who is the president of South Dakota Farm Bureau.

Kjerstad also said Bush briefly discussed country-of-origin labeling for meat, a provision that is included in the new farm bill framework.

"He appeared to be very supportive of having our stamp on our product," said Kjerstad. "He did say, however, that he thought we had to be very careful about what kind of country-of-origin labeling we pass because we want to make sure of a couple of things: one is that we can enforce whatever legislation we pass and also, what is it going to cost to enforce it?"

Ron Alverson, past chairman for Dakota Ethanol, said the president asked very pointed questions during their round-table discussion.

"We talked about some real specific things," said Alverson, a producer in the Chester, S.D., area. "He asked questions like 'what do you guys need, what are your problems, what can I do to help?'"

One challenge brought forth was the hurdle for a start-up LLC company to work through the Securities Exchange Commission. Alverson's hope was that with Bush's help, some streamlining might be done to make the process easier and less expensive.

The panel members felt as though the president was truly interested in what they had to say. The future of the industry is of particular interest for Micah Hansen, 2001-02 state FFA president, who represented the youth at the round-table.

"I was just very impressed that he would want to come to South Dakota and visit with producers in the state," said Hansen, originally from Philip, S.D. "Hearing the President's concern, it's encouraging to know that we do have support in our nation's capitol.

"I asked that when they're making this farm bill that they investigate what it's going to do for future prices not only for those in business but also those trying to get into the business. Through this, it definitely gave me the chance to have a voice and showed a lot of other young people that we do have a voice," said Hansen.

Darrin Ihnen of Hurley, S.D., also shared in the round-table discussion with Bush, and he is confident Bush will sign the farm bill once it reaches his desk. Also the president of the South Dakota Corn Growers Association, Ihnen was encouraged by the president's support of renewable fuels as well as increased trade.

"He talked about how we need fair trade and free trade," said Ihnen. "And he wants to support ethanol because it will support the rural economy, but at the same time he's making it a cornerstone of his national defense and security so we don't have to rely on foreign sources of energy."

Bush echoed those thoughts publicly in his speech following the round-table discussion. Bush said America is self-sufficient in food but produces more than it can use, so finding markets overseas is important.

"The more markets that are open for U.S. farmers and ranchers, the better off our economy will be," said Bush. "It's important that this nation embrace free and fair trade. It's important that we understand that when we're good at something - and we're the best farmers and ranchers in the world - we ought to open up markets to sell our products all across the world.

"We need to keep American ag in the forefront of trade agreements. It ought to be the cornerstone of international trade policy," said Bush.

The culmination of the farm bill fittingly followed Bush's visit to South Dakota as the state is considered to have measurable influence in the debate over how the government subsidizes and regulates agriculture. The farm bill had been snagged for weeks over issues critical to South Dakota farm groups and the state's legislators, Daschle, Sen. Tim Johnson and Thune.

"We need good farm legislation," said Bush. "The farm bill needs to get done quickly so that the farmers who are out there fixing to plant know what the rules of the game are."

Photo info: The crowd applauds for President Bush's comments supporting ethanol and renewable fuels when he visited the Dakota Ethanol plant in Wentworth, S.D., April 24.

As Congressman John Thune and Governor Bill Janklow (front row crowd) look on, Bush not only offered support for the development of ethanol and biodiesel for rural economies, but also as a national security tool to decrease dependance on foreign sources of energy.



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