Journal and Courier, IN 07-24-07 Food, fuel top issues at farm workshop By MAX SHOWALTER [email protected] Food and fuel. Those are among the main topics of discussion this week at the Top Crop Farmer Workshop at Purdue University. "You're the bedrock of what we do here. We learn a lot from you," Sally Thompson, the head of Purdue's Department of Agricultural Economics, told the 120 participants attending the 40th annual event Monday. Information sessions during the day included discussions on techniques to produce high-yield corn, control herbicide-resistant weeds and track the value of farmland. Jill Nichols Euken, assistant director of the office of biorenewables programs at Iowa State University, spoke about the opportunities and challenges in the biofuels economy. "It's certainly an exciting time to be in agriculture," Euken said. "We have huge energy problems to solve." Euken discussed the feasibility of creating alternative fuel sources beyond ethanol, including thermochemical, lignocellulosic and hydrogen. "These are the technologies that are going to be the next phase of bioenergy," she said, while acknowledging that capital expenditure costs could hamper some efforts. Other concerns connected to advances in the bioeconomy include the potential for higher land prices and a lessening of water quality and the quality of life in rural areas. Those worries are balanced by factors that can include creation of good paying jobs, revitalization of rural areas and improved infrastructure and tax base. Ronald Smith, a farmer near Attica attending the workshop, pointed out that ethanol-based E85 fuel isn't readily available at service stations in the area. "It seems to me it would be better to blend all the fuels and forget about E85," Smith said. "When you do find E85 it's so close to the cost of regular gasoline that it's not economical to burn it."