Iowa Senator Tom Harkin, the incoming chairman of the U.S. Senate’s Ag Committee, says the driving force behind the next “Farm Bill” will be energy.
“If we’re ever going to be energy independent, it’s going to be because of our farms and rural communities…so we have to begin thinking anew about how we enter this new era of energy crops and what we’re going to do to work hand-in-glove with the private sector to recognize that market forces are going to have to, ultimately, pull this,” Harkin says. “There are things that we can do in the beginning to start moving in that direction.”
In the new year, Harkin — who’s a Democrat — will lead the drafting of a new, six-year Farm Bill. Harkin says he wants to look at all the options to help farmers “make the transition” to growing crops, like switchgrass, which can be converted into energy. “Energy just actually may be the engine that pulls this Farm Bill or pushes it, one way or the other,” Harkin says. “…We’re going to have to think about how we start moving our agricultural agenda towards energy — energy independence.”
Harkin says, for example, farmers will face transition costs, like buying new equipment and obtaining storage for different crops — as the whole plant is used in the energy-conversion process. “I think there is a groundswell of support in this country among all sectors that we need to be energy independent,” Harkin says. “We need to produce more biofuels in this country.”