CANNON FALLS, Minn. — The discussion about the Build Back Better plan came to Southeast Minnesota on Friday when Xochitl Torres Small, the Under Secretary for Rural Development, came to discuss biofuels.

"As we invest in biofuels, we’re investing in local markets and economies," Torres Small said. "Build Back Better under President Biden and (U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom) Vilsack is working to invest in the local infrastructure that supports the higher blends."

U.S. Rep. Angie Craig, the House member from Minnesota's 2nd District, said Build Back Better contains funding that will be available for grants to help build out the infrastructure for biofuels across the country, specifically to help gas stations afford the technology to offer biofuels at the pump for consumers.

Craig, who has authored a separate bill that would make E15 – a 15% ethanol blend in gasoline – available all year instead of mid-September to June 1, said she wants to remove the restrictions on E15 to help farmers and consumers.

"We want more choice for Minnesotans and more choice for Americans,” Craig said.

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Carolyn Olson, vice president of the Minnesota Farm Bureau, said, the biofuels provisions in the Build Back Better plan are one part of the bill her organization can get squarely behind.

"In the conversation today, a year-round E15 brings more stability to our ethanol plants, brings a more stable market to the corn farmers," she said. "The market is very up and down. Stability is a big thing, and that’s what we’re looking for the most."

Olson agreed with Torres Small and Craig that ethanol is an economic driver that supports rural communities. She did caution, however, that the Minnesota Farm Bureau did not agree with all the provisions in the Build Back Better plan.

"There’s not a lot beyond the biofuels sphere that we find will be overall helpful without having some unintended costs in there," she said.

Craig said the plan supports more than just ethanol plants but also helps farmers, truck drivers, and others who support the industry.

Thomas Hardwood, chief operations officer at Al-Corn Clean Fuel in Claremont, said funding for biofuels helps support his business that uses 41 million bushels for corn annually to produce 130 million gallons of ethanol. The company employs 55 people and supports businesses such as truck drivers, maintenance contractors and, of course, the farmers who grow the corn.

Craig also touted the recently passed infrastructure bill that will provide funding for rural hospitals, extending broadband internet coverage into rural areas, and energy programs in rural areas. Craig said many of the jobs that would be created are the "kind that can't be outsourced."

Torres Small, who previously served as a congresswoman from New Mexico, talked up her former colleague in Congress.

"One thing Congresswoman Craig has been focused on is empowering climate-smart solutions that farmers know about," the under secretary said. "Whether it’s investing in biofuels, whether it’s ways to make livestock production and cattle growing more fuel efficient and reduce the impacts there. We know that ag (folks) can be some of the best stewards of the land out there."

She added that it was important to hear directly from farmers to find the best ways to support them in biofuels production. Farmers, she said, already know how to fight climate change, and helping them do so is vital to the country's climate change goals.

Brad Hovel, who farms corn and soybeans as well as driving a truck hauling pigs, said Minnesota has been on the leading edge of biofuels for 20 years.

"One thing I’d like to point out about Minnesota is we truly are the leaders in the renewable fuels world," Hovel said. "Our actual carbon footprint keeps getting smaller and smaller and smaller."