Market to Market has frequently reported on ventures to add value to farm commodities.
Value can be added in a variety of ways, which helps rural communities as well as the individual farmers. A premium can be realized for crops grown for a specific end use, processing and marketing can be done at the local level.
But perhaps the biggest break a farm commodity can get is a technological advancement that can cause it to become a staple in such demand that it becomes virtually a utility. This week the soybean, already enjoying growing popularity for multiple uses, received another boost.
For most of this spring and summer, America's soybean producers have been enjoying a rally, of sorts, as the nearby contract rose nearly 25-percent.
This week growers got more good news, courtesy of the Agriculture Department. On Tuesday, U-S-D-A announced it will use biodiesel, as well as ethanol fuels, in its' fleet of about 800 vehicles where available and reasonable in cost.
For the past two years, the government has been testing a mixture of 20-percent soybean oil and 80-percent diesel, commonly known as "b-20 Biodiesel," in about 150 vehicles at USDA's Agricultural Research Center in Beltsville, Maryland. – Powering everything from tractors to tour buses on biodiesel.
Sharon Holcombe: "This year we've used about 80,000 gallons of b-20 biodiesel. Next year, in 2002, we're ‘gonna double that number.
Biodiesel is a cleaner burning alternative fuel that can be made by refining natural oils including vegetable oils, animal fats, and even cooking oils.
By using the alternative fuel in its vehicles USDA claims it's leading by example, helping to protect the environment, and bolstering the rural economy. In addition to the vehicles, USDA also plans to heat some of its buildings with biodiesel this winter.