The opening of a biodiesel fueling station in South Carolina is a giant step for soybean producers and one that happened because of checkoff funds, says the president of the state's soybean association.

United Energy Distributors of Aiken, S.C., in mid-October opened the first public alternative fueling station that offers soy-based biodiesel, E-85 or other alternative fuels.

M.D. Floyd, president of the South Carolina Soybean Association, believes biodiesel will mean more money in the pockets of producers.

“We really have good thoughts about what's going to come out of this in the future,” says Floyd, a Scranton, S.C. producer. “It's really going to add a lot more uses for soybean oil. Soybean oil is a real back-up problem for the price of soybeans.

“All of the crushing mills end up with a large amount of oil,” Floyd says. “This will help relieve the oil supply in the mills. Also, in these trying times, it is very important for us as a country to reduce our dependency on foreign oil.” The soybean industry is also hoping for tax relief for biodiesel, which would encourage more distributorships to open.

The opening of the station in South Carolina is part of the soybean checkoff's goal of increasing soybean use to 1.75 billion bushels by 2005. A recent USDA study shows that an average annual increase of 200 million gallons of biodiesel would increase total cash crop receipts by $5.2 billon by 2010. Soybean industry experts say this could mean an increase of $300 million per year in farmers' net income. The study also says that the price of soybeans could increase an average of 17 cents annually over a 10-year period.

Next year, the United Soybean Board (USB) Domestic Marketing Committee plans to invest in activities to develop biodiesel markets and work with the National Biodiesel Board. The USB's Biodiesel Industry Coordination and Education project is working toward these goals.

“We're very glad to see this happening,” Floyd says. “This is one positive thing that farmers can take a look at and really see some of the check-off money at work. It's something a lot of farmers can put their hands on.

“I've already had neighbor farmers come up to me and comment on hearing about the biodiesel station in Aiken, and I tell them, ‘That's part of your check-off money at work. They just sort of sit there and nod in agreement.”

Biodiesel, Floyd says, is a win-win for farmers, the government and the environment. “It's a much safer fuel and it's a renewable fuel. And it's just going to add money to beans at selling time, which would make us a little more profitable and cut the government from having to add to the LDPs.”

Soy-based biodiesel can be used as a pure fuel or blended with petroleum diesel in any percentage. Biodiesel reduces unburned hydrocarbons, carbon monoxide and particulate matter in conventional diesel engines compared with petroleum-based fuel.