NCGA says its efforts to gain more funding for ethanol research bore fruit this week, as Secretary of Agriculture Mike Johanns announced plans to propose $1.6 billion in new funding for renewable energy, as part of U.S. Department of Agriculture's 2007 farm bill recommendations.

"I think research just -- overnight -- became a priority," said Pam Johnson, Chairwoman of the National Corn Growers Association (NCGA) Research and Business Development Action Team. Johnson met with administration leaders this week seeking a commitment for corn and other crops.

Her message gained greater urgency after President George Bush Bush called for a national goal of reducing gasoline usage by 20 percent during the next decade, with much of the difference to be made up by ethanol and other biobased fuels.

"Were going to need research, policy and infrastructure all to move forward at the same time so we can really capitalize on what we can do," Johnson said.

Johnson believes the proposed new funding for biobased fuels will be money well spent. "Money's always a problem, but it's a matter of prioritizing," she said. "I think research supplies great opportunities in the long term. We also need to think about strategically positioning our country. We didn't get to where we are now in ethanol overnight."

Ethanol this week is sparking energy for some and concern for others.

"While corn growers are excited to see the biofuels initiative advance even further, corn growers also recognize the concerns other groups have over the corn supply and demand issues," Johnson said. "It is important to remember to not be too reactionary. Corn growers will supply enough corn to all of our markets. Livestock, poultry and hogs are a critical customer for our product. The renewable fuels initiative really will be beneficial for all."

NCGA's First Vice President Ron Litterer, a corn grower and pork producer was also in Washington this week, meeting with congressional and administration officials touting the message that corn growers provide food, feed and fuel.

"The renewable energy industry is growing and growing fast," Litterer told officials. "But with that growing industry, we now have a new, high protein feedstock that we didn't have before. And with the growth of renewables, new feed products like dried distillers grains, comes significant growth in rural America, which before this value added opportunity, was close to becoming part of the obituary page in America. Everyone is benefiting."

Johnson and Litterer during their two day trip met with Sens. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa), Charles Grassley (R-Iowa), and Secretary Johanns in addition to several other congressional visits.

SOURCE: NCGA news release.