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Vilsack and Stabenow urge investment in "bio-economy," Farm Bill

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US Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack visited Ford headquarters in Dearborn Monday.

He was there, along with Michigan Senator Debbie Stabenow and members of the United Soybean Board, to visit a Ford research lab and make a broader push for more “bio-based” products.

Vilsack says there’s “unlimited capacity and opportunity” in the bio-based economy.

“Virtually everything we need in an economy—whether it’s a chemical, whether it’s a plastic, whether it’s a fiber, whether it’s a fabric, whether it’s fuel, whether it’s energy—can be produced from a plant, a crop, or livestock material,” Vilsack said.

Vilsack and Stabenow say strategic partnerships between farmers and industry are full of economic and environmental promise.

Stabenow, who chairs the Senate Agriculture Committee, says President Obama’s recent directive to increase federal purchases of bio-based products by 50% over two years is a good first step.

But she says more needs to be done to support the research, development, and commercialization in the “bio-economy” she and Vilsack think represents the future.

“This is a very, very exciting time,” Stabenow said. “I think the sky’s the limit.”

But both Vilsack and Stabenow warn that US farmers are now ravaged by drought—and need a “safety net” to get them through that and other challenges.

Both pushed for Congress to pass the giant, multi-year agricultural policy package known as the Farm Bill.

The bill has passed the Senate, but the US House could delay taking it up until after the November elections.

After the Dearborn stop, Stabenow and Vilsack moved on to Lansing to talk with some Michigan farmers about the harsh drought conditions they face.

Sarah Cwiek joined Michigan Public in October 2009. As our Detroit reporter, she is helping us expand our coverage of the economy, politics, and culture in and around the city of Detroit.
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