Kudos to Our Ag Innovators

Biomass Magazine Executive Editor Tim Portz discusses the impact farmers and ag innovators are making on energy crop development.
By Tim Portz | January 29, 2014

Readers paying close attention to the monthly editorial themes of Biomass Magazine might notice that we have focused this issue’s content on energy crops again, just five months after covering this topic in the September issue. This was deliberate, and entirely driven by Biomass Magazine’s decision to attend, exhibit and distribute this issue at the 2014 Commodity Classic in San Antonio, Texas. 

The Commodity Classic bills itself as “America’s largest farmer-led, farmer-focused convention and trade show” and is one of agriculture’s landmark annual events. Upon completing last year’s energy crop issue, we realized that the trajectory of the development of energy crop projection hinges on farmer interest, acceptance and innovation. 

Farmers plant and grow commodities because there are strong, healthy markets waiting for them. While prices rise and fall, producers can be assured that there will be buyers for these crops come harvest time. For now, growers of energy crops do not have that same market surety. This dilemma is underscored in Chris Hanson’s page-26 article on legislation in the U.K. aimed at giving growers more assurance.  Kevin Lindegaard, the founder of Crops for Energy Ltd., notes, “Unfortunately, the majority of farmers aren’t likely to go out and create the market themselves. It needs to be done through policy mechanisms and there needs to be a pull from the market, not a push from the farmers, and, unfortunately, that's what is missing at the moment.”

While Lindegaard was commenting on British policy and British farmers, his words ring true with farmers around the world. Still, farmers have a penchant for and a long history of innovation, and this is clearly evident in nearly every story in this issue. Anna Simet’s page-14 feature about the establishment of miscanthus in the Corn Belt clearly articulates the challenges farmers face when learning a new cropping system, while also highlighting the resilience and can-do demeanor of the local farming community.

Lindegaard’s comments and Simet’s story demonstrate both the struggle and innovation of farmers who are deservingly celebrated in our culture and in these pages. This month, Biomass Magazine makes it clear that the success of energy crops will be driven largely by the men and women who make it their life’s work to tease from their land not only the crops our world needs today, but also those crops we will need tomorrow.