An Iowa corn grower says the growth of the ethanol and biodiesel industries have created a rare economic opportunity for western Iowa. Odebolt farmer Jim Meyer says rural Iowa hasn’t seen an investment opportunity like this in more than four decades.

Meyer says he thinks rural Iowa’s having a “once-in-a-generation” economic opportunity, because of the fast growth in production of renewable energy fuels, both ethanol and biodeisel. He compared it to investment opportunities in Iowa Beef back when the big packer was building regional slaughterhouse operations in western Iowa.

Meyer testified Monday at a farm bill field hearing held by a U.S. House Agriculture Subcommittee on Livestock and Horticulture. Meyer told lawmakers that the energy “title” in the farm bill needs to be strengthened and that research on renewable fuels should remain as a top priority.

Meyer says there’s also a federal energy bill, and a rural-development office within the U-S-D-A, but says the energy title in the farm bill should be strengthened because it’ll boost rural economic development and could also cut the amount of federal production-support payments the government has to make.

Meyer, who has been involved in the formation of several ethanol and biodiesel facilities, cautioned that the renewable energy industry needs a thriving livestock industry to create the right synergy. Meyer says the future success of renewable-energy production in western Iowa depends on well-run, profitable livestock operations. “We used to process soybeans for the meal, and the oil was something to get rid of,” he says. “Now we’re processing beans for oil, and the meal is something to get rid of. Livestock’s a good place to get rid of that protein.” He says animals also can be a good way to use DDG (dried distillers grains), the byproduct of ethanol production.

Monday’s field hearing was held at Dordt College in Sioux Center. Meyer was one of ten rural Iowans who offered suggestions to lawmakers as they prepare to write a new farm bill.