National Corn Growers Association (NCGA) President Ken McCauley said the commitment to renewable fuels was “very clear” at the first day of the Advancing Renewable Energy Conference in St. Louis.

During the general session, Secretary of Agriculture Mike Johanns and Archer Daniels Midland CEO Patricia Woertz stressed the opportunity America has to relieve its dependence on oil. Woertz said biofuels provide “a once-in-a-generation opportunity.”

McCauley said Johanns emphasized — just as NCGA has done during the past year — that corn growers will provide enough corn to supply the fuel, feed, export and food markets.

“The commitment to renewable fuels is very clear at this conference,” said McCauley. “Secretary Johanns stressed President George W. Bush’s administration is committed to renewable fuels. In his speech, he said, ‘We will soon buy our fuel by the bushel, not the barrel.’ As a corn grower, that is exciting to hear because it indicates how dedicated our government is to making biofuels a major part of the solution to U.S. energy needs.”

The conference, jointly held by the U.S. Department of Agriculture and Department of Energy, is hosting many stakeholders involved in biofuels, wind, solar and other renewable energy sources from across the United States in order to further Bush’s Advanced Energy Initiative (AEI). The AEI seeks to accelerate the commercialization of clean, affordable alternative and renewable sources of energy by changing the way U.S. citizens power cars, homes and businesses.

Bush is scheduled to speak at the event today.

NCGA is a sponsor of the event. NCGA CEO Rick Tolman was the Master of Ceremonies for Wednesday’s plenary sessions.

Johanns and Secretary of Energy Samuel Bodman also announced nearly $17.5 million for 17 biomass research, development and demonstration projects. The grants are intended to develop technologies necessary to help make bio-based fuels cost-competitive with fossil fuels in the commercial market. The projects selected will carry out research, development and demonstrations on biobased products, bioenergy, biofuels and biopower.

“Americans are discovering the road to energy independence is paved with natural resources grown right here at home,” Johanns said. “This is a new era for America's farmers, ranchers and rural communities as they seize this moment where opportunity meets need, and where American ingenuity breaks a century long addiction to oil.”

For more information on the grants, visit www.usda.gov. For more information on the Advancing Renewable Energy Conference, visit http://www.technologyforums.com/6EN/.