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WSA offers support of biofuels bill

Categories: WSA, WSPPublished On: November 1, 20232.8 min read

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With grassroots advocacy at the heart of everything the Wisconsin Soybean Association (WSA) does, its farmer directors remain vigilant in ensuring that Wisconsin soybean growers have a seat at the table in Madison and Washington, D.C. 

WSA submitted written comments in support of Senate Bill 454. The legislation would create a program within the Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection (DATCP) that would provide $8 million in matching grants to Wisconsin fuel retailers to upgrade their equipment to make it compatible with higher blends of ethanol and biodiesel.  

“The biodiesel industry in Wisconsin is growing by leaps and bounds, and this bill would help us build on that momentum,” said Ryan Smith, WSA manager of strategic programs. 

Introduced by Sen. Joan Ballweg (R-Markesan), the bill can be used to fund grants up to 50% of the costs to upgrade equipment; retailers would be eligible for grants up to $1,000 per dispenser with a maximum of $15,000 in total grants to a single facility. Facilities that receive a grant would be required to provide a gasoline-ethanol fuel blend that contains at least 15% ethanol by volume or a biodiesel fuel blend that contains at least 20% biodiesel by volume from each dispenser funded by the grant. 

“Expanded biodiesel availability in Wisconsin is a winner for the whole state,” Smith said. “It equates to cheaper prices at the pump, lower carbon emissions and expanded opportunities for agriculture in Wisconsin. WSA fully supports the passage of this important legislation.” 

As the nation’s first domestically produced, commercially available advanced biofuel, biodiesel is a clean-burning, ultra-low carbon solution that can be used in any diesel engine without modification. Made from plant-based oils, used cooking oils and animal fats, using renewable diesel instead of petroleum-based fuels reduces greenhouse gas emissions by more than 70% on average. 

“Passing this bill would be a big thing for the state of Wisconsin,” WSA Vice President Doug Rebout said. “In the past, the governor has had a taskforce on climate change, looking at implementing better practices for the climate. The more biodiesel and renewable fuels that we use, the better it is for the climate. So, it’ll help everyone, not just soybean growers.” 

Because biodiesel directly benefits Wisconsin soybean growers, WSA is a strong supporter of implementing policy that encourages the adoption of biofuels. B20, or 20% biodiesel blended with 80 percent petroleum diesel, adds nearly $2 to every bushel of soybeans and increases demand by 13%. 

“If this bill is passed, more gas stations will have the opportunity to offer biodiesel and ethanol options, giving people more places to buy the product and in turn, increasing demand,” Rebout said. “That benefit will come back to the farmers as higher prices for their soybeans.” 

And more biodiesel use in Wisconsin has economic benefits. Wisconsin currently produces 25 million gallons of biodiesel at two plants, REG Madison in DeForest and Walsh BioFuels in Mauston. If SB 454 is passed and demand for renewable fuels increases, it may bring with it a need for more crush plants. 

“Hopefully, if we get enough biodiesel use in Wisconsin, it may also increase demand for crush plants and processing facilities that could bring more jobs into the state,” Rebout said. 

As always, WSA never stops working on behalf of Wisconsin’s soybean growers. As a vital component of the soybean industry, biodiesel provides environmental and economic benefits to everyone. Passing  SB 454 would be a step in the right direction for Wisconsin.