Undersecretary for rural development with the U.S. Department of Agriculture Dallas Tonsager, says the nation’s agricultural economy is sound but many rural communities are not benefiting. Value-added agriculture, he says, could help create jobs. “I’m a believer in value-added agriculture,” he said. Cellulosic biofuels, typically ethanol made from plant material other than corn, will provide many opportunities for growth in rural communities when the technology comes of age, he predicts.
“We have agreements with airlines. They want 20 billion gallons of biofuels from agriculture, and they want to fly every plane on biofuels. That’s not going to come from corn. It’s going to come from a lot of things.” However, Tonsager acknowledged that development of any sort is difficult in a down economy. Power from the wind farms could power a large conversion plant.
“But agriculture is doing pretty good,” he said, noting that commodity prices are sound, and most sections of the Dakotas, with exceptions for areas affected by flooding, expect good harvests.
Tonsager said his office’s mission is to “bring needed infrastructure and business to rural communities, and we work with every community we can to get that done.” Projects include the expansion of broadband access, the development of water and sewer systems, and wind energy.
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