Tester bill a ‘win-win-win situation’ for Montana agriculture, world energy

Legislation encourages more biodiesel production by providing camelina crop insurance

(WASHINGTON, D.C.) – Senator Jon Tester today announced new legislation that will help Montana become a world player in alternative energy development by providing crop insurance for camelina and other biofuel crops.

Oil from crushed camelina seeds is converted into biodiesel fuel. The leftover seeds can be used as livestock feed.  Lack of crop insurance is the only thing holding back many farmers interested in planting camelina.

"If I had a bit more time, I'd be growing oilseeds on my farm and investing in biofuels myself," said Tester, one of only two farmers in the U.S. Senate. "But this bill will open the door to a whole lot of opportunities for my neighbors—and for farmers all across Montana."

Tester's Biofuel Crop Insurance Pilot Program provides expedited insurance for biofuel crops like camelina through the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Risk Management Agency.  Normally, insuring new crops is a process that takes years.

Tester detailed his bill this morning at his Washington office along with National Farmers Union President Tom Buis and Sam Huttenbauer, President of Great Plains, a camelina advocacy organization.

"Renewable energy production is one of the most exciting opportunities in our rural communities," Buis said. "I commend Senator Tester's foresight in introducing this legislation. Public policy can and should encourage innovation and diversification of both our food and fuel supplies."

Great Plains expects Montana farmers to grow around 50,000 acres of camelina in 2007—nearly four times more than last year.

Camelina grows easily in Montana.  It will not, however, compete with the U.S. food supply because it can be easily rotated with more traditional crops like wheat and barley.

Currently developers are building a biodiesel facility in Chester, Mont.  Other biodiesel facilities are proposed for Havre, Roundup, Great Falls and Butte.

"Expanding biofuels in Montana is a win-win-win situation," Tester said. "It provides options and more job opportunities for farmers.  It's responsible and sustainable development of a renewable resource.  And it cuts back on our thirst for foreign oil, which will ultimately make our country more secure."

Senator Max Baucus, Montana's senior U.S. senator, soon plans to roll out a major legislative package boosting Montana camelina production even further by providing deferred loan payments to farmers who invest in camelina crops.

"Max has been a champion for Montana's farmers and our agriculture potential for a long time," Tester said.  "I look forward to working with him in the future to making this state a leader in the biofuels industry."

Tester's Biofuel Crop Insurance Pilot Program is Senate Bill 1242.