In April, the Wisconsin Secretary of Agriculture, Trade, and Consumer Protection, Rod Nilsestuen, announced the formation of the North Central Bio-Economy Consortium (NCBEC), a twelve-state collaborative effort between the directors of the State Departments of Agriculture, Cooperative Extension Services, and University Agricultural Experiment Stations. The Bio-Consortium will identify and jointly act upon opportunities to ensure the nation’s transition toward greater energy independence, utilization of biomass feedstocks, and development of robust bio-economies.

Wisconsin farm

Farms within the north central region of the United States, like the one pictured here in Wisconsin, will help to produce biomass feedstocks needed to reduce America’s reliance on foreign energy supply. Credit:

The north central states involved in the consortium include Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota, Ohio, South Dakota, and Wisconsin. These states already lead the nation in the production of biofuels and have the potential to produce the amount of feedstocks needed for the next generation of cellulosic biofuels and bioenergy. Materials such as switchgrass, crop residues, woody crops, mill residues, and wood residues are either abundant or easily produced in the region.

“We are committed to making sure the north central region leads the way in renewable energy while protecting our natural resources and boosting our rural economies,” said Nilsestuen. “Today the north central region is the leader in ethanol production, and for our future, we will lead in the transition to cellulosic biofuels from perennial bioenergy crops and other biomass sources.”

“We will use collaborative research programs through our Midwest universities to make sure that our valuable working lands of agriculture and forestry are used in a sustainable manner for future generations,” said Forrest Chumly, Associate Director of the Kansas Agriculture Experiment Station at Kansas State University.

“The long history of university extension offices in working with local communities, producers, and business leaders to make sure state-of-the-art research goes to work in our farms, forests, and local businesses helps guarantee that bio-economy growth will benefit all,” said Dennis Campion, Associate Dean of Illinois Cooperative Extension.

“These are exciting times for the north central region and the United States as we move toward greater use of renewable energy and fuels,” said Sara Bergan, executive director of the Great Plains Institute. “This consortium provides our region the opportunity to develop the next generation of biofuel feedstocks and energy technologies while also providing the research and policy tools necessary to ensure long-term sustainability and economic vitality.”

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