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Stronger support for farmers, biofuels, Harkin predicts

Senator Tom Harkin, the Iowa Democrat who heads the Senate Agriculture Committee, says President-elect Barack Obama will have a USDA that supports the farm bill Congress passed over a veto last summer. And the new Obama Administration will be a strong advocate of biofuels, Harkin tells Agriculture Online.

"I think you're going to see from the Obama administration much more emphasis on rural renewable energy, on ethanol. They're just going to be pushing really hard on the renewable fuels standard and on cellulosic ethanol," says Harkin.

The Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007 already mandates the use of 36 billion gallons of ethanol by 2022 -- with more than half of that coming from cellulose and non-grain sources.

Harkin says Obama wants it higher. "He's often talked to use about boosting it up," Harkin says.

Renewable fuels are part of Obama's plan to create 5 million new green jobs over the next decade, something that a campaign worker extolled just days before the election, at a dedication of a POET ethanol plant in Marion, Ohio on October 24.

Heather Zichal of the Obama campaign said that Obama wants to increase the Renewable Fuels Standard to 60 billion gallons by 2022.

And, to the farmers in the audience, she said, "You're addressing high input costs, now is not the time to pull the rug out from under our ag policies that help you find profitability in the marketplace."

Heather Zichal of the Obama campaign speaks at an ethanol plant dedication last month.

Senator Tom Harkin, the Iowa Democrat who heads the Senate Agriculture Committee, says President-elect Barack Obama will have a USDA that supports the farm bill Congress passed over a veto last summer. And the new Obama Administration will be a strong advocate of biofuels, Harkin tells Agriculture Online.

Nor does Harkin think that the bad press ethanol has gotten will influence the Obama administration's commitment to biofuels.

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