METTER -- Farmers need to become energy producers and not only energy consumers.
That was one of the messages Collin Peterson, chairman of the House Agriculture Committee, offered Monday morning in front of around 80 people in Metter. Peterson was there with Congressman John Barrow, (D-Savannah) as part of his rural listening tour in advance of a vote on the Farm Bill now being discussed.
He talked about a plant known as the jatropha, which originally grew in South America as a potential crop that could be grown in the southern United States that could possibly produce up to 1,200 gallons of biodesiel fuel per acre. Also, he mentioned algae as a potential producer of biodesiel fuel with some research in Florida yielding positive results.
“We want to help farmers become part of the solution for energy independence,” he said.
But Peterson, a Democrat from western Minnesota, also cautioned that these alternative fuels are still in their infancy and more research needs to be done on these potential energy sources, saying there are a lot of “snake oil salesmen” who tout new products that may not live up to the hype.
Barrow, who serves on both the Agriculture committee and the Energy Committee, also said the country needs to not focus primarily on the production of biofuels to eliminate the country’s dependence on foreign oil, but also needs to set its sights on the commercial availability of those fuels and automobile manufacturers producing cars that use those fuels.
Peterson said the new farm bill should come up for a vote in front of the full House of Representatives by the middle of July. He said he knows the bill won’t be able to make everyone happy, but assured those in attendance they were doing all they could to make it the best possible.
“We hope to end up with a farm bill that everyone dislikes equally,” he said.
Also addressed at the public forum was the country of origin labels that was called for in 2002 but has yet to be implemented. Peterson said he hopes to have labels on foods by October, 2008 and said it’s important to do so to help with the exporting of American food, especially beef.
Barrow said Georgia was a perfect place for the chairman of the agriculture committee to come to because the state has so many different crops growing.
“Nobody grows as many different things as we do here in Georgia,” Barrow said. “Having the chairman here in Georgia to hear our concerns is like having him hear from farmers across the country.”
Tommy Irvin, Georgia’s Agriculture Commissioner, was also on hand at the town-hall meeting and said it was extremely beneficial to have Peterson hear the concerns of Georgia’s farmers.
Monday’s forum in Metter was one of nine throughout Barrow’s district he’s held beginning last week.