DES MOINES — Coming out of the farm crisis of the 1980s, ethanol production was seen as a way to grow rural economies and add value to the crop farmers were producing.

National Farmers Union leaders are hoping ethanol can once again pull agriculture out of a slump as the farm organization heads to Capitol Hill to lobby for biofuel use and higher ethanol blends.

National Farmers Union President Roger Johnson announced the new initiative Wednesday. The organization hired a full-time lobbyist, Anne Steckel, as biofuel adviser to push the agenda in Washington, D.C.

“It’s not only about advocating, it’s about educating,” Steckel said on a media conference call Wednesday.

Johnson said they understand it will take a significant effort and some time to change policies toward favoring ethanol, and he anticipates opposition from the oil industry. The auto industry, however, may be on their said as car builders work to build more fuel-efficient engines to meet new regulations, Johnson pointed out.

Ethanol advocates have been pushing government to get behind higher ethanol blends. While 10 percent ethanol is fairly standard at pumps across America, Farmers Union and others are promoting E30 ethanol as an option for more than just flex-fuel vehicles.

Using more ethanol in gasoline and using more corn to make ethanol can help farmers that grow the corn and rural communities that make the ethanol, Johnson said.

“We’re producing more and more corn and we need to find more and more uses for it,” he said.

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