It’s not going to go away, said Rep. Ken Tschumper, DFL-LaCrescent. During House floor debate on the agriculture and veterans policy bill, Tschumper, a dairy farmer, twice offered amendments attempting to strike or delay a biodiesel provision that would hike the percentage of biodiesel content in diesel fuel from two percent to 20 percent by 2015.

“This is really a big picture issue,” said Tschumper on the House floor. Tschumper charged that the increased use of biofuels — ethanol, biodiesel — is taking prime agricultural land out of food production, contributing to sharply increasing food prices seen globally. “I know you think I’m mistaken,” said Tschumper on the House floor. “I’m absolutely certain I’m right about this,” he told his colleagues.

But House Agriculture, Rural Economies and Veterans Affairs Finance Committee Chairman Al Juhnke, DFL-Willmar, countered Tschumper’s assertions. Juhnke noted that biodiesel provision isn’t crop specific — different crops can be used, he explained. Animal fats, even algae — he personally thinks ultimately algae will prove the best biodiesel additive, Juhnke opined — can be used rather than crops, he argued.

Juhnke described the current escalation in food prices seen globally as the result of a multiple factors — drought in Australia, a burgeoning Chinese middle class with a taste for meats. “We’ve kind of had the perfect storm,” he said of merging factors.

Although Tschumper failed at amending the biodiesel provision, two of his amendments dealing with pesticide application were adopted. “This (the debate) isn’t going to go away,” opined Tschumper about energy/food debate.

Other items in the bill drawing debate was a provision dealing animal chiropractic services — a Senate provision requiring animal owners to first seek a referral from a veterinarian for animal chiropractic services was adopted. Critics argued this two-step process placed animals on a higher care plateau than human beings.

One provision in the bill would have the Department of Agriculture creating a proposal for establishing hemp as a cash crop if the federal government okays its commercial production in the United States.

Juhnke foresaw the planting of hemp — assuming federal approval — taking place in northern half of Minnesota.

He pointed out that industrial hemp has low THC — the active agent in marijuana. It’s useless for drug use, he explained.

Copyright: 2008,
Contact: T.W. Budig, ECM Capitol reporter
Website: - Rep. Tschumper alarmed using alternative fuels causing food prices to climb