Area farmer attending National Biodiesel Conference

SAN DIEGO, Calif. -- Jim Willers, a rural Beaver Creek farmer and chairman of the New Uses Action Team for the Minnesota Soybean Research and Promotion Council, is leading a See For Yourself mission trip to the 14th annual National Biodiesel Conf...

SAN DIEGO, Calif. - Jim Willers, a rural Beaver Creek farmer and chairman of the New Uses Action Team for the Minnesota Soybean Research and Promotion Council, is leading a See For Yourself mission trip to the 14th annual National Biodiesel Conference this week in San Diego.

The group of 25 Minnesotans taking part range from soybean farmers to mechanics and fuel industry representatives. They spent Monday learning the latest in legislative information about the biodiesel industry.

They will hear in the coming days from some of the conference speakers, including National Biodiesel Board (NBB) CEO Donnell Rehagen and Tom Derry, director of outreach and development for the NBB. The conference begins this morning.

“Most everybody that’s attending is a first-timer,” said Willers of the Minnesota contingent. “We try to bring a broad spectrum of people.”

Participants become the eyes and ears of Minnesota’s soybean industry, and return home to share what they’ve learned about the biodiesel industry with others.


“If you bring a lot of first-timers down here, they have a lot of questions they can get answered,” said Willers, who has attended several of the national conferences in his role with the MSR&PC. The Minnesota contingent is joined by representatives of the North Dakota Soybean Council and an individual from South Dakota.

“I want them to come away with a better understanding of the biodiesel industry - where we’ve been and where we’re going,” he added.

In terms of where the biodiesel industry has been, Minnesota was the first state in the nation to pass a biodiesel mandate when, in 2002, it required all diesel fuel sold in the state to contain a minimum of 2 percent bio-based diesel. In the 15 years since, B2 was replaced with B5 and then B10 in the state. In the spring of 2018, the B20 mandate begins in Minnesota.

“The amount of biodiesel used, not just in Minnesota but in the whole country, has been increasing,” Willers said. “It’s probably getting close to 5 billion gallons of biodiesel here - it (comprises) about 30 percent of the soybeans raised in the United States.”

Around the world, biodiesel is produced from a variety of products - just about any vegetable oil, palm oil and rapeseed oil, Willers said.

“Biodiesel is being used around the world and we will have a lot of people from around the world attending this conference” he added.

Approximately 1,000 people are expected to attend the four-day National Biodiesel Conference.

According to information from the National Biodiesel Board, the conference will highlight biodiesel’s successes during the past year.


In New York City, for instance, new legislation increases the amount of biodiesel used in place of conventional heating oil. Estimates are the amount of biodiesel used for home heating oil there will increase from 50 million gallons in 2016 to 200 million gallons by 2034.

Also, Oregon has instituted its own Low Carbon Fuel Standard, which will increase clean-burning biodiesel in place of petroleum diesel.

There will be much discussion as well on what the new Congress and Administration will mean for the biodiesel industry and the Renewable Fuel Standard.

The RFS was signed into law under the George W. Bush administration with bipartisan support in Congress. It guarantees that minimum levels of biodiesel and other alternative fuels are blended into the nation’s fuel supply.

“There’s no question this is an interesting time for biodiesel and our industry,” Rehagen said in a press release. “Like so many others we are eager to see what the coming months and the Trump Administration will mean for renewable energy, for tax reform and for the RFS. Biodiesel is one of the few truly bipartisan issues, and we are confident our new Congress and new leadership will continue to support a smart solution that is working for America on so many levels.”

Minnesota produces more than 60 million gallons of biodiesel per year, with much of it made from soybean oil.

“I just want people to understand that biodiesel is not exactly the same product it was when we started,” Willers said. “It’s continually gotten to be a better product - it’s pretty much a trouble-free, worry-free product. It’s basically helped soybean farmers increase income. Since 2002, we’ve probably added $3 billion to the ag economy because of biodiesel.”

Related Topics: AGRICULTURE
Julie Buntjer became editor of The Globe in July 2021, after working as a beat reporter at the Worthington newspaper since December 2003. She has a bachelor's degree in agriculture journalism from South Dakota State University.
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