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MFA Oil Company Says “Look to America’s Farmers to Solve America’s Biggest Challenges

Once a leader in the ethanol production industry, MFA Oil, led by CEO Jerome Taylor and 40,000 farmers, breaks into renewable energy with its work in Biomass -- requiring an environmentally sustainable perennial crop that is cost-effective and provides a high yield per acre.

Jerome Taylor is being recognized as a Champion of Change for his work advancing new ideas that are leading the way to a clean energy future and an economy that’s built to last.

Before ethanol as we know it today, MFA Oil Company was growing fuel for America. Prior to the oil embargo of the 1970’s, MFA Oil was producing gasohol. MFA Oil was one of the early producers of gasohol, which started America on the long road towards energy security and energy independence. MFA Oil was able to make that bold move because of its long history in Missouri and strong relationship with the region’s farmers.  From those days of gasohol, MFA Oil is now an investor in a biodiesel production facility in Missouri, offers E-85 at over 50 locations, and has a 10% ethanol blend at more than 300 MFA Oil fueling stations. Formed in 1929, MFA Oil has over 40,000 cooperative members today and is once again on the ground floor of moving America in the right direction.

Today MFA Oil is taking on America’s most important, but most difficult renewable energy sector – Biomass. Success in producing energy or fuel from biomass requires an environmentally sustainable perennial crop that is cost-effective and provides a high yield per acre. Once achieved, a successful project must then obtain large farmer support and have an effective and efficient conversion process that can earn the farmer income. These are all enormous challenges. In 2008, I began working with the MFA Oil board of directors, which is made up of eight farmers, to begin laying the groundwork to meet those challenges. We determined the markets were ready for MFA Oil to expand its energy services into the emerging biomass renewable energy market. That initiative came to fruition in 2010 when MFA Oil teamed up with Aloterra Energy LLC to form MFA Oil Biomass LLC. Aloterra’s vertically integrated operations and expertise in miscanthus planting logistics were a perfect match with MFA Oil’s farmer focused operations and long history in renewables. 

What makes MFA Oil Biomass unique, and likely earned this "Champions of Change" recognition, is our ability to combine farmer buy-in and farmer trust with the critically important biomass farming model of vertical integration. Vertical integration means we provide MFA Oil’s farmers an energy crop source, specialized planting equipment, specialized harvesting equipment, processing technology, and marketing services for the cooperative’s biomass fuel.  Doing business as a cooperative made the whole process seem natural. We are partners with our farmers from soil to market and they have responded with enthusiasm, commitment, and an American “can-do” spirit unmatched anywhere else in this great nation. 

The results have been both exciting and stunning. In 2011, the United States Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Farm Service Agency awarded the owners of MFA Oil Biomass funding to start four Biomass Crop Assistance Program (BCAP) Project Areas – two in Missouri, one in Arkansas, and one in Ohio. In only three months, commitments were made to grow our energy crop, miscanthus giganteus, on over 18,000 acres. At project maturity and with further technology developments, our 200,000 miscanthus acres will equal 122,000,000 barrels of renewable liquid fuel reserves – a true game changer for America. Since BCAP approval, we have witnessed a flurry of activity from national and international entities to introduce dozens of cutting-edge technologies and manufacturing projects to convert our crops into green fuels, green chemicals, solid fuel pellets, and consumer products ranging from car parts to housing materials. The USDA’s BCAP program has committed resources to start this program with our farmers. In return, I have been asked by MFA Oil’s farmers to send a message to Washington that they see a path to energy security and independence, and it is through biomass, continued support from programs like BCAP, and leveraging our greatest asset – America’s farmer.

Jerome Taylor is a long-time employee and CEO of MFA Oil, a farmer owned energy cooperative headquartered in Columbia, Missouri. Cooperatively owned by 40,000 farmers, MFA Oil's mission is to improve the economic well-being of its farmer members through the distribution of energy and energy related products.