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Switchgrass forum Wednesday in Tennessee

The Tennessee Farm Bureau Federation and the University of Tennessee will host an educational public forum on the UT Biofuels Initiative and switchgrass production on Wednesday, Aug. 29, at the Morristown campus of Walters State Community College, 500 South Davy Crockett Pkwy., just east of Knoxville. The meeting will begin at 10 a.m. in the Judge William H. Inman Humanities Complex Theater, Room 147.

The UT Biofuels Initiative is a research and business model designed to position the state as a leader in the nation’s efforts toward commercially viable biofuels production. The public forum is an opportunity for the community to learn more about the UT Biofuels Initiative and its potential to improve local economies across the state.

Farmers will have an opportunity to learn more about the production of switchgrass, the new energy crop needed across the state to sustain production of cellulosic ethanol. Cellulosic ethanol is made from plant materials such as switchgrass and wood chips.

Special participants in the forum will be U.S. Reps. of Tennessee, Zach Wamp, David Davis and Bob Goodlatte.

The initiative seeks to partner the research capabilities of UT, Oak Ridge National Laboratory and private industrial partners with farmers and landowners in Tennessee to produce ethanol fuel, initially from a 5-million-gallon-per-year biorefinery in East Tennessee. The facility will focus on research necessary to refine the conversion process, optimize the use of local farm and forest resources and generally improve the overall process to allow commercial scale-up throughout the state. The principal product will be grassoline — an alternative fuel that has the potential to replace 30 percent of our gasoline consumption.

As chairman of the House Republican Policy Energy and Technology Subcommittee, Wamp crafted the Republican energy platform in the 109th Congress. He also serves as co-chairman of the 221-member Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency Caucus, which promotes legislation to secure America’s energy independence, advance energy efficient technologies and protect the environment by increasing the use of renewable energy sources.

As a Republican member of the House Small Business Committee, Davis will address opportunities for traditional farm businesses to meet increasing demands for biofuel feedstocks, opportunities for small businesses in Tennessee to participate in the growing bioeconomy and opportunities for communities to strengthen Tennessee’s bioenergy infrastructure.

Goodlatte, the ranking minority member of the House Agriculture Committee will address the development and progress of the 2007 farm bill, especially programs and incentives designed to hasten the development of the cellulosic biofuels industry.

Also participating in the forum are Lacy Upchurch, president of the Tennessee Farm Bureau Federation; Kelly Tiller, director of external operations for the UT Office of Bioenergy Programs; Clark Garland, chair of Biofuels Farmer Education Programs for UT Extension; Delton Gerloff, UT agricultural economics professor; and Kevin Brown, Tennessee state conservationist for the Natural Resources Conservation Service. Joseph DiPietro, University of Tennessee vice president for agriculture, will serve as moderator for the discussion.

Questions will be accepted from the public.

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