Feb 17, 2011

Growing Miscanthus Giganteus: MFA Oil Partnership to Create 900 Jobs for Mid-Missourians

Reported by ; Emily Spain Posted by ; Christi Warren

JEFFERSON CITY - MFA Oil Company of Columbia and Aloterra Energy announced a partnership Tuesday called MFA Oil Biomass LLC. MFA estimates it will create 900 jobs in central Missouri alone. Local farmers will grow the renewable energy crop that MFA Biomass plans to turn into biofuels like ethanol.

Approximately 100 of the jobs will be in a conversion plant while the rest will involve farmer support services and equipment manufacturers.

There are two other project areas besides mid-Missouri, one in southwest Missouri and the other in northeast Arkansas. All three projects could generate 2,700 jobs.

"This program is one of the answers to one of the problems we're in; it addresses pollution, it addresses renewable energy," said MFA Oil President Jerry Taylor.

The grass crop is called miscanthus giganteus. It is easy to grow, requires little fertilizer and is pest resistant. Nearly 1,700 farming families will grow the grass.

"We can produce something locally to help out the economy and the US as an energy resource," said farmer Beau Voss. "It is new to us."

Voss plans to plant the grass on 40 acres at his farm just outside Jefferson City. Poultry farmer Rusty Mulford from southwest Missouri hopes to grow around 100 acres of the renewable energy crop.

"I'm most excited about having the sustainable energy grown right on my farm," Mulford said.

The sustainable energy could lure even more businesses to central Missouri besides the new MFA biomass.

"It could be extremely helpful in attracting the type of tech companies that we like into the Columbia area because of a strong renewable energy producing effort," said Taylor.

The project relies on Federal money from the Biomass Crop Assistance Program or BCAP. The U.S. House of Representatives cut the programs budget, but it still has to go through the senate.

"We had over $400 million allotted in the program nationally and that was to be utilized over a number of years," Taylor said. "That [has] been cut by the house to a little over 112 million, but that's just the first go around...The whole program is still in Obama's budget."

MFA Oil Biomass needs some of that money to help farmers get the crop started because it takes three years for the crop to fully mature. MFA Oil said farmers will start to plant the crop this spring.

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