|What kind of work is Farm Aid doing with biodiesel?|
Talk of alternative energy is everywhere - from the president's State of the Union to the Oscars.
People all over are scrambling to figure out how alternatives to fossil fuels will work in our day-to-day lives. Environmentalists, corporate executives, celebrities and especially farmers are all trying to puzzle out how to meet the growing demand for renewable fuels. In business terms, I have seen this growing industry compared to the dot com boom of the 90's: this is a world of exciting new technology with lots of potential.
So, to start the answer to your question: Willie's very excited about alternative energy (which I think you may have gleaned over the past few years) and Farm Aid is working hard to learn as much as possible about this fascinating topic. However, this issue is very complex and we know from our conversations with farmers that alternatives need to be carefully considered in order to guarantee the basic ideals of economic and environmental sustainability -- fair prices for selling a high value crop locally and polluting less.
With this warning in mind, Farm Aid has channeled funds to five organizations across the country that are working to promote alternative energy and the interests of farmers and rural communities. At these very early stages of production and infrastructure building, we believe that grassroots organizations -- the people on the ground -- are one excellent place to begin learning about best practices, solid public policy, inherent concerns and genuine benefits.
Farm Aid has yet to launch a particular project or campaign around alternative energy but our grants to these organizations have allowed us to deepen our understanding of its production and uses. At the same time, we have been able to support some very concrete resources that farmers can use to learn about the possible benefits of alternative energy production and on-farm usages. Check out some of these projects:
American Corn Growers, Washington, D.C.
Western Organization of Resource Councils (WORC), Billings, Mont.
Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy, Minneapolis, Minn.
National Center for Appropriate Technology, Butte, Mont.
For more information on biofuels, read "Biofuels or Bust: Making the Bioeconomy Sustainable for Farmers and the Land" by Jim Kleinschmit of the Institute of Agriculture and Trade Policy, and Mark Smith of Farm Aid