Virginia Farm Bureau endorses alternative energy program

The Virginia Farm Bureau recently became the latest farm group to officially endorse the “25x’25” initiative, a vision shared by ag organizations nationwide as well as the big three automakers.

The vision is that, by the year 2025, America’s farms, forests and ranches will provide 25 percent of the total energy consumed in the United States, while continuing to produce safe, abundant and affordable food, feed and fiber.

A group of volunteer farm leaders first envisioned the goal, and it quickly gained the support of a broad cross section of the agriculture and forestry communities. 25x’25 is supported financially by the Energy Future Coalition, a nonpartisan public policy initiative funded by foundations.

Tracee Bentley, a spokeswoman for Energy Future Coalition, says, “Our steering committee picked 20 priority states based on their political climate, ag leadership at the national and state levels, and then their resources available. Virginia is one of those priority states because of the presence of ag here.”

Bentley told the Farm Bureau board that the 25x’25 goal was gathering support from business, labor, conservation, environmental and religious groups and is building significant momentum with state policymakers. It has garnered the support of seven U.S. governors and four state legislators. DaimlerChrysler, Ford and General Motors also have voiced support.

Bentley also pointed out that U.S. Rep. Bob Goodlatte, of Virginia who chairs the House Agriculture Committee, is chief co-sponsor of the initiative in the House.

“Our project is very ag-oriented,” she said, “and everybody else can endorse all day long, but until you have some major ag organizations on board it’s not going to come together.”

Bentley noted that achieving the 25x’25 vision will have a wide range of benefits, including reducing America’s dependence on foreign oil; creating new jobs in manufacturing and in rural areas; bringing new technologies to market; saving consumers money; and reducing smog.

“We can produce 70 billion gallons of ethanol — about 25 percent of our projected gasoline use in 2025 — from farm and forest resources, including many waste materials,” she said.

In endorsing 25x ‘25, board member Paul Anderson of Frederick County noted that, while the cost-effectiveness of bio-based fuels has been questioned, ancillary benefits are overlooked.

“I am baffled at how much we hear about what’s cost-effective and what is not,” Anderson said. “Yet people fail to mention what we will save in terms of environmental costs and health costs.”

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