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The Steuben Courier Advocate
  • Candidates: Energy from agriculture

  • The two candidates for the 29th Congressional District are looking at agriculture as one way to ease the country’s energy needs.

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  • The two candidates for the 29th Congressional District are looking at agriculture as one way to ease the country’s energy needs.
    Democratic candidate Matt Zeller said the country should move away from using corn to manufacture ethanol and instead should look to using switchgrass.
    “We now know that corn is not the answer and that using it to produce ethanol is incredibly inefficient,” Zeller said Wednesday. “Therefore we must begin slowly reducing the subsidies paid out by the Department of Energy to corn farmers and begin ramping up subsidies to more proven sources of ethanol like switchgrass.”
    Zeller pointed out there are 80,000 acres of dormant farmland in Steuben County. If this land was dedicated to growing switchgrass for ethanol, it could produce $2-3 billion annually.
    Zeller’s opponent, Republican Tom Reed, said he would also advocate using switchgrass as an energy source.
    “I would support incentives that encourage both (corn and switchgrass ethanol),” Reed said. “From what I understand, both have their benefits and downsides. At this point in time, I would right now support tax incentives and other credits.”
    On several occasions Reed has said he supports an “all-of-the-above” approach to our nation’s energy needs that includes wind, solar, biomass, nuclear and domestic drilling for oil and natural gas.
    Reed said he would pay for switchgrass subsidies through the pay-as-you-go approach currently being touted by Congress.
    “Right now, pay as you go is a political headline but they don’t mean it,” Reed said. “What I would say is, we have to quantify that number, as we draw a line in the budget, where that expense has to be covered from other areas in budget.”
    Both Reed and Zeller also discussed the need to revamp the way milk is priced.
    “It’s decided by an arcane six-decade old formula that cannot even begin to take on the stresses a modern economy puts on farmers,” Zeller said. “Federal stabilization is what’s needed and I’m committed to working to provide it.”
    Reed also said the one-size-fits-all approach to pricing milk doesn’t benefit local dairy farmers. He said he favors restructuring the formula to take into account local factors.

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