Ethanol leader praises benefit of renewable fuel on economy

Published 10:15 am Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Jim Miller speaks Tuesday at the Albert Lea-Freeborn Chamber of Commerce Agriculture Luncheon. – Tiffany Krupke/Albert Lea Tribune

Jim Miller speaks Tuesday at the Albert Lea-Freeborn Chamber of Commerce Agriculture Luncheon. – Tiffany Krupke/Albert Lea Tribune

The ethanol industry is responsible for bolstering small town economies, said Jim Miller, vice president and chief economist for Growth Energy.

Miller was the guest speaker at the ninth annual Albert Lea-Freeborn County Chamber of Commerce Agriculture Luncheon on Tuesday. He spoke about the relationship between ethanol and economic growth to about 75 people at the yearly luncheon. Growth Energy is  a trade association representing the interests of the ethanol industry.

The Farm Family of the Year was announced at the Ag Luncheon at the Fairlane Building of the Freeborn County Fairgrounds. – Tiffany Krupke/Albert Lea Tribune

The Farm Family of the Year was announced at the Ag Luncheon at the Fairlane Building of the Freeborn County Fairgrounds. – Tiffany Krupke/Albert Lea Tribune

Miller said imported oil is down about one-third because of the ethanol industry. The ethanol industry saves $350 billion a year in foreign oil costs, he said.

The industry is responsible for adding 400,000 U.S. jobs and nearly $40 billion to the gross domestic product each year, he said.

Miller said the industry struggles with safety concerns, especially in light of a train derailment in Florida that spilled ethanol, one in North Dakota that spilled and burned crude oil and a leak near Winona that spilled crude oil. He suggested more be done to ensure rail safety. Miller said while the industry has made leaps and bounds, it needs the support of farmers and legislators.

“This industry is your industry,” Miller said. “If we are going to succeed, we need to find better ways to come together.”

Miller, a Washington native, farmed for 20 years. He joined the crowd in honoring the Farm Family of the Year. “I used to farm so I know how much work goes into maintaining a family farm,” Miller said.

Paul and Linda Lynne of rural Hartland received the award this year. The couple farms 320 acres of land for corn and soybeans. They live on a farm that has been in the Lynne name for five generations.

Linda took the microphone after accepting the award with her husband and said she loves Freeborn County.

“Paul really deserves this award,” Linda said with a smile. “He has been farming his entire life.”

The Farm Family of the Year award has been given out every year since 1980. The luncheon honors one family each year and is a chance for locals to discuss local agriculture.