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No funds for biofuel crops program

Published (2/22/2008)
By Nick Busse
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A newly established program to pay landowners to develop their lands for producing biofuel crops will likely go unfunded this year.

A $40 million bonding request for the Reinvest in Minnesota (RIM) Clean Energy Program was not included in the recommendations approved by the House Watersheds, Wetlands and Buffers Subcommittee. The program was established by the Board of Water and Soil Resources last year at the request of the Legislature.

“We have to make some choices,” said Subcommittee Chairman Rep. Rick Hansen (DFL-South St. Paul), whose bill, HF2731, includes a $42 million bond appropriation for the RIM Reserve program, administered by the board.

Hansen explained that the state currently has limited funds at its disposal. He said the RIM Reserve Program is a better investment because it can leverage $1.40 in federal funds for every $1 in state money spent. He added that some of the RIM Reserve funds could be used for similar purposes as the RIM Clean Energy Program.

Critics of the subcommittee’s recommendations included Don Arnosti, forestry program director for the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy. He said the subcommittee was missing a huge opportunity to establish native perennial biofuel crops on working agricultural lands.

“I believe you’re making a tremendous mistake that you will regret for many years,” he said.

A Senate companion, SF2640, sponsored by Sen. Dennis Frederickson (R-New Ulm), awaits action by the Senate Finance Committee.

The recommendations have also been rolled into HF2957, sponsored by Rep. Jean Wagenius (DFL-Mpls), which contains the bonding recommendations of the House Environment and Natural Resources Finance Division. A companion bill, SF2952, sponsored by Sen. Ellen Anderson (DFL-St. Paul), awaits action by the Senate Finance Committee.

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