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Minister Wallace urges farmers to grasp bioenergy opportunities at Biomass Conference in Dundalk

The Minister of State at the Department of Agriculture and Food, Mary Wallace T.D., today highlighted the new opportunities and market outlets for farmers and the rural economy in producing biofuels and biomass for renewable energy. The Minister was speaking at an Energy Crops conference in Dundalk organised by Louth County Development Board. The conference is targeted at the farming sector and is part of an initiative to promote alternative sustainable land use in Louth.

Minister Wallace said she was aware that interest in bioenergy is gaining momentum at farm level. "It is recognised that the role of agriculture is changing and under the European Model of agriculture the sector can fulfil a variety of functions including agricultural production for non-food uses. This reflects the broadening of the economic base of agriculture as farmers move to diversify and look for new investment opportunities beyond traditional farming outlets".

The Minister said she was confident that there are real and sustainable opportunities for farmers in energy crops sector. "Agriculture and forestry are the source of most of the raw materials for bio-energy and there are opportunities for farmers to grow energy crops for liquid biofuels and for heat and electricity generation". She is keen to ensure that this interest can be translated into action and added that "my Department will continue to support farmers, foresters and other rural businesses interested in diversifying into biomass for energy end-use".

As Minister of State with responsibility for forestry matters, Minister Wallace also highlighted the potential for wood energy to be a major player in the renewable energy market. "Forestry contributes to wood energy in a number of ways including small diameter timber from thinnings and forest residues following clear-fell. As with the other biomass options, wood provides a renewable, carbon-neutral source of energy".

Minister Wallace welcomed recent policy initiatives to support the development of the bioenergy sector in Ireland. The recent publication of the Green Paper "Towards a Sustainable Energy Future for Ireland" and the establishment of a Ministerial Taskforce on Bioenergy underlines the Government's commitment to developing the sector. The Taskforce will deliver a National Bio-energy Action plan by the end of 2006 and will set ambitious targets to promote biomass and biofuels within the overall energy policy. The objective is to increase substantially the contribution of bio-energy in transport, heat and electricity generation.

The Minister reiterated her Department's commitment to supporting the development of emerging biofuel technologies through the Department's Research Stimulus Fund Programme.

Concluding her remarks the Minister said the development of an indigenous bioenergy sector will help stimulate diversification of farm incomes, generate sustainable employment and contribute to the development of rural economies.

7 November, 2006

Date Released: 07 November 2006