Believe it or not, not all of the activity in Congress this week involved filibusters and partisan chest-thumping. On issues affecting American agriculture, lawmakers took some important steps.
One of those issues was ethanol, which in recent years has become the value-added darling of farm country.
Competing versions of an energy bill before the House and Senate both call for dramatic increases in ethanol production. But the two chambers disagree on how much that increase should be. And opposition from the powerful oil industry could muddle the prospects of a compromise.
Either way, there have been a growing number of calls for independence from foreign sources of energy, which bodes well for the corn-based fuel alternative.
Oil industry lobbyists were quick to voice their objections to the bill. They were concerned that the mandate would increase the price of food, not provide a significant reduction in oil imports, and not be economical in certain regions of the country.
The Renewable Fuels Association, the ethanol industry's lobby, returned fire by stating the ethanol goal of 8 billion gallons would replace 2 billion barrels of crude oil and trigger 6 billion dollars in new investment in ethanol production.
A few senators on the committee voiced concern that ethanol is reported to release several pollutants during the summer months and the increase in production could increase in gas prices.
Those senators who rose in support of the bill believe the proposed legislation will decrease dependence on foreign oil, reduce gas prices and reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
President Bush is still calling for an energy bill to reach his desk before Congress takes its summer recess. The full senate is expected to take up the measure in late June.