Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack last week announced a new federal-private collaboration with DuPont to safeguard natural resources on private lands used to supply bio-based feedstocks for cellulosic ethanol production.
The joint agreement between USDA's Natural Resource Conservation Service (NRCS) and DuPont aims to set voluntary standards for the sustainable harvesting of agricultural residues for renewable fuels.
DuPont is building a 30 million gallons per year cellulosic ethanol plant in Nevada, Iowa, near Ames and northeast of Des Moines. The feedstock for the ethanol plant will be corn stover collected from fields in what will be a 30-mile or larger radius.
"USDA and DuPont share a common interest in the wise use and management of soil, water and energy resources," said Secretary Vilsack. "Both organizations also share an interest in helping individual farmers adapt to new market opportunities in ways that are consistent with the wise use of these natural resources."
Jim C. Borel, executive vice president of DuPont, said, "Working with farmers is critical to maximizing the land's productivity and protecting natural resources. With this new collaboration, we have a partner in the Natural Resources Conservation Service to ensure that the collection of corn stover for the production of cellulosic renewable fuel makes sense for an individual grower's operation and the land they farm."
The announcement followed the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between NRCS and DuPont. USDA, through NRCS, will provide conservation planning assistance for farmers who supply bio-based feedstocks to biorefineries as the industry begins to commercialize. A conservation plan, written for individual operations, will ensure sustainable harvest of corn crop residues while promoting natural resource conservation and land productivity. A conservation plan is a voluntary document, written in cooperation with farmers, which helps them protect natural resources while promoting a farm's economic sustainability.
Through the MOU, DuPont will develop a process to work with cooperating farms on sustainable harvest practices that help keep soil in the field and out of rivers, streams and lakes; promote healthier soils which help reduce flooding through increased infiltration rates and provide for the efficient use of nutrients.
Typical for any USDA announcement, comments on how both DuPont and USDA are looking at this for rural job creation, additional income for farmers, bio-based energy development and the safeguarding of natural resources and land productivity were also included in the MOD announcement.
"This agreement will support our nation's effort to reduce dependency on foreign oil, while working to protect and improve the productivity of our soils—one of our most valuable resources," said Vilsack.