Farming’s future: ethanol, soy and medicinal |

Farming’s future: ethanol, soy and medicinal

GLENWOOD SPRINGS – The ag business isn’t just about growing food and fiber anymore.That’s the word coming from a Club 20 meeting Tuesday at the Courthouse Plaza in Glenwood Springs. Club 20 is a 50-year-old organization that represents the interests of Colorado’s 22 western counties. The group met with farmers and ranchers Tuesday to share information about trends in commerce and agriculture.Gone are the days when growing crops means providing only greens for the table and linen for the tablecloth, according to David Peebles, a Colorado State University Cooperative Extension agricultural marketing agent for Delta County. The future is in corn for ethanol, soybeans for soy milk, and bio-pharming – producing crops exclusively for pharmaceutical use.

Peebles said due to the United States’ precarious dependence on foreign oil, there’s a nationwide interest in developing ethanol processing plants. Ethanol is a fuel made from a renewable resource, corn. “It’s a long shot in western Colorado,” Peebles said of the probabilities of building a ethanol plant in this area, noting that alfalfa and grass hay are the region’s preferred crops, and the cost of shipping corn here for processing will likely be too costly.Still, Peebles said CSU has ordered a feasibility study that should be completed by November for constructing a plant. “We’re at the start of the industrial revolution,” Peebles said of the current need to develop renewable fuels. “For the past 80 years, technology has changed, but not our source for fuel. It’s worth a look.”

Les Mergleman, a Club 20 officer and the chief executive officer at Olathe State Bank, said soybeans are emerging as one of the fastest-growing crops in the West. “Don’t put up your noses to this,” he said, “but Boulder is the largest producer of soy milk in the state. And annually, the demand for soy products is increasing 20 percent a year.”Mergleman explained that people with lactose intolerance are increasingly purchasing more products made from soy.”And among Hispanics, there’s a higher percentage of lactose-intolerant people than among any other ethnicity,” Mergleman said. With the growing number of Latino residents in western Colorado, the demand for soy milk is bound to grow, he said.

Pattie Snidow, a western Colorado representative from the Colorado Office of Economic Development, spoke to the group about another emerging farming opportunity: bio-pharming – growing crops exclusively to be used in pharmaceutical medicines. “There’s a future in bio-pharming,” she said, explaining that when the food supply is too great, which is often the case, it’s good for farmers to look at getting out of the food and fiber markets and into other areas.Peebles said there are challenges in growing crops only for pharmaceutical use. “You have to be able to isolate your crops, which can be quite difficult,” he said. “But the benefits are that bio-pharming can potentially lower the cost of pharmaceuticals, which can make health care more affordable.”Snidow added that although bio-pharming can be difficult, the rewards can be worth it.”It’s a small yield for a few farmers, but it can be highly profitable,” she said. “Bio-pharming requires highly skilled farmers, but it also pays very well.”Contact Carrie Click: 945-8515, ext. 518cclick@postindependent.comFor more information…-About ethanol-About soy beans production-About bio-pharmingContact Club 20 at 970-242-3264

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