WASHINGTON, D.C. -- The Biotechnology Industry Organization praised the far-reaching initiatives contained in the USDA's 2007 Farm Bill Proposals to encourage the production of biofuels and biobased products from renewable agricultural resources, as well as ensure fairness of international trade for agriculture.

"The 2007 Farm Bill proposals show the Administration's support of biotechnology in both industrial and agricultural applications," said Jim Greenwood, president and CEO of BIO. "We greatly appreciate the Administration's demonstrated commitment to support companies researching and commercializing both ethanol from cellulose and biobased products from renewable agricultural resources. The proposals related to international trade illustrate the importance of internationally accepted regulatory standards, many of which affect biotech crops."

USDA Secretary Mike Johanns last week released proposals for the 2007 Farm Bill that included new initiatives to support international trade. These proposals included establishing a new grant program investing $20 million over 10 years to focus resources on addressing international sanitary and phytosanitary issues for all agricultural commodities.

Additionally, the proposals provide for long-term funding of $15 million over 10 years to enhance USDA staff support for international standard-setting bodies, including Codex Alimentarius, the International Plant Protection Convention, and the World Animal Health Organization.

The administration's proposals also include $1.6 billion in funding for research in alternative energy, specifically targeting ethanol from cellulose and biobased products. Significantly, the proposals include funding for loan guarantees for ethanol from cellulose facilities; for research in renewable energy, biobased products, and sustainable production of biomass; and for incentives to increase market demand for biobased products.

"To bring biofuels to the pump within the next few years, we must fund the necessary research into applied fundamentals, at both laboratory and commercial-scale facilities," stated Greenwood. "We must start to overcome issues in supply of raw materials, conversion of new feedstocks, and distribution of biofuels now. The Administration's proposals are a good start toward achieving the President's goal of producing 35 billion gallons of renewable fuel within 10 years."

The USDA proposals echo recommendations made by BIO in its November 2006 report, "Achieving Sustainable Production of Agricultural Biomass for Biorefinery Feedstock." That report details the potential of cellulosic biomass as an energy resource and examines considerations for sustainable harvesting of agricultural residues - such as corn stover and cereal straws. The report further points out the need for infrastructure to deliver feedstocks from farms to biorefineries.

Specifically, BIO's report recommends federal funding for development and distribution of simple-to-use soil carbon models that allow farmers to collect crop residue without degrading soil quality; funding for demonstration projects to streamline collection, transport and storage of cellulosic crop residue feedstocks; and funding for programs to help farmers identify and grow the most suitable crops for both food production and cellulosic biomass production.

"Congress has the opportunity this year to fund advanced research and provide additional incentives that will help build growing biofuel and biobased product industries and increase America's energy independence," said Brent Erickson, executive vice president of BIO's Industrial & Environmental Section.

"Reducing dependence on traditional fuel sources and lessening environmental impacts are important to future U.S. economic growth and competitiveness," Erickson continued. "With industrial biotechnology processes now available that transform crop residues such as corn stover, wheat straw and rice straw into ethanol and biobased products, America could soon significantly reduce its dependence on imported oil. One challenge facing the expansion of the biorefinery industry is producing, harvesting and delivering abundant feedstocks in an economically and environmentally sustainable fashion. Government support to further research and development will help speed the future of biofuels."

BIO represents more than 1,100 biotechnology companies, academic institutions, state biotechnology centers and related organizations across the United States and 31 other nations. BIO members are involved in the research and development of healthcare, agricultural, industrial and environmental biotechnology products.

SOURCE: Biotechnology Industry Organization via Business Wire.