Florida Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam met recently with Highlands County energy crop growers at an event hosted by Highlands Envirofuels in Sebring.  

This event was part of a day-long briefing and tour of the area’s future biofuel conversion facilities. 

“Diversifying the state’s agriculture industry has been and continues to be one of my top priorities as Commissioner of Agriculture,” said Commissioner Putnam. “Florida has a unique opportunity to become a leader in the development and production of alternative energy, especially biomass. By investing in higher education, research and grants, the Department can enable Florida farmers, scientists and academics to explore the state’s options for energy production.”

During the event, Highlands Envirofuels provided an update on progress of the advanced biofuels production facility planned for Highlands County. The new ethanol plant is expected to produce 30 million gallons per year of advanced biofuel, approximately 25 megawatts of green renewable power and approximately 100,000 tons of cattle feed syrup.

The facility will process both sweet sorghum and biofuel cane using zero fossil fuels and will be a net water producer.

Highlands Envirofuels also presented findings from a recent economic impact study, which concluded that the project would bring approximately 760 jobs and $51 million, including direct, indirect and induced, to the local community.

Earlier, Commissioner Putnam visited the farm construction site of Vercipia Biofuels’ first commercial facility, a plant expected to produce up to 36 million gallons of cellulosic ethanol per year and provide the region with approximately 200 jobs. The plant will use next-generation cellulosic ethanol technology to convert renewable biomass resources to fuel. Lykes Bros., a local family-owned agriculture business, will provide land and farming services to the venture.

Commissioner Putnam applauded both Highlands Envirofuels and Vercipia Biofuels for their innovative efforts to develop alternative energy from agriculture commodities in Florida. Alternative energy is one of Commissioner Putnam’s top priorities.

Vercipia Biofuels and Highlands Envirofuels have been awarded grants totaling $14 million in funding from the Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services through its Farm to Fuel Initiative.

The Farm to Fuel Initiative was created in 2006 to enhance the market for and promote the production and distribution of renewable energy from Florida-grown crops, agricultural wastes and residues, and other biomass. It also aims to enhance the value of agricultural products and expand agribusiness in Florida.

The Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services hosts the annual Farm to Fuel Summit to promote the production, distribution and use of renewable fuels, particularly ethanol. For more information about Farm to Fuel, visit www.floridafarmtofuel.com.

For more information about the Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, visit www.FreshFromFlorida.com.