With high prices and a bountiful harvest seemingly locked up, farmers may receive an early holiday gift in the form of energy policy reforms emphasizing renewable fuels.
Suitors for the office of president have their own plans to increase biofuels production in the heartland. With less than 30-days to the Iowa caucuses Democratic candidate Bill Richardson this week proposed cutting greenhouse gas emissions by 30 percent and reducing dependence on foreign oil by 50 percent by 2020.
In Washington, Congress is pursuing an energy plan of its own. Despite veto threats from the White House, Democratic leaders in the Senate are working to craft a comprehensive Energy Bill before the end of the year.
Despite numerous distractions from presidential political campaigns and the holiday season, Congressional action on Capitol Hill is in full swing. A long-developing energy bill still is working its way through the U.S. House and could provide a large boost to America's alternative fuel industry.
According to sources inside the beltway, lobbyists and congressmen are hammering out details on a comprehensive energy bill that could require more than 20 billion gallons of renewable fuel production by the year 2015. Recent estimates project current ethanol production is nearly four years ahead of a government-mandated fuel standard of 7.5 billion gallons by 2012.
The House is under increasing pressure to pass long-standing energy legislation in the midst of sharply higher oil and gas prices. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi says she would like the energy measure on the floor next week.
While farmers and ranchers may be keeping a watchful eye on energy legislation, the U.S. Senate still is plodding along on the 2007 farm bill.
Bob Stallman, President NFBF: "We're very concerned that the farm bill may not be finished until early 2008. There are farmers and ranchers out there planning for the next year and they don't know how the farm bill will end up. Our best predictions have the farm bill going to vote early next year."
Criticism of current farm bill proposals has come from multiple agricultural sectors. National Cattleman's Beef Association President John Queen recently slammed the farm bill by dubbing a ban on packer ownership of livestock a "disaster for cattlemen". Farm reform groups have criticized the measure for a lack of change on payment limits. And President Bush has threatened to veto any farm bill that includes excessive spending.
Sen. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa: "I don't know what the game is now in the White House. So, I'm not going to worry about whether you veto it. I can't predict what he'll do. I don't care what he does. I'm going to write the best farm bill I can."