From Iowa Biotechnology Association, Greater Des Moines Partnership, Iowa Corn Growers Association, Cedar Rapids Metro Economic Alliance, Iowa Soybean Association, Ames Chamber of Commerce, America’s Cultivation Corridor, Greater Fort Dodge Growth Alliance, Iowa Fruit & Vegetable Growers Association and West Des Moines Chamber of Commerce

We appreciate the presidential candidates’ commitment to environmental and agricultural issues, and we know that they understand the importance of investing in rural communities. But, as they build off the Iowa caucuses, we have yet to hear their views on one of the most impactful ways to address those concerns: continuing to expand our nation’s bioeconomy.

The bioeconomy seeks to solve some of the most pressing environmental problems of our time by converting renewable resources into bio-plastics, feed, energy sources, and more. The innovations we’re seeing in this arena have the potential to help reduce waste, improve soil health and water quality, and dramatically reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Yet, apart from perhaps an occasional mention of ethanol, this growing industry’s potential is not being recognized for the significant part it can play in both environmental and rural development policy.

Thanks in no small part to our access to natural materials, such as corn and soy, as well as the leadership of our research institutions, Iowa has already proven itself to be a leader in bioeoconomic research and development. The products and processes being discovered every day, right here in Iowa and across the nation, are paving the way to a more circular and sustainable economy.

Just last year, Iowa State University researchers discovered a method for producing slow-release fertilizer from biochar, which has prospects for reducing inputs to agriculture and improving water quality. Iowa Corn has already secured multiple patents on their process for producing a bio-based version of a compound called MEG, replacing fossil fuel-based materials in plastic bottles and packaging. The Iowa Soybean Association is working hand in hand with their members to promote sustainable agricultural practices, such as utilizing no-till and cover crops. Likewise, IowaBio member companies like Gross-Wen Technologies and Agricultural Bio Fibers, have developed technologies that are solving problems in our economy and increasing sustainability in rural communities. Gross-Wen uses algae in an innovative, less expensive system to remove excess nutrients from wastewater, then turning the algae into useful fertilizer. Agricultural Bio Fibers creates animal feed with a vision that features farmers who benefit from both the crops they grow and the value that is added afterward, looking to the value of water quality, carbon storage, improved soil health and a new generation of farmers and rural residents. 

In short, the bioeconomy promises to drive a new era of innovation in the agricultural sector and enable our farming communities to thrive in the years to come, and to play a significant role in combatting climate change. As such, continued support and funding for the bioeconomic industry is a crucial component of any environmental policy or rural development plan. We hope that the candidates will recognize the impact of this burgeoning industry, and work to fold it into their plans and conversations regarding environmental and climate policy.

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