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Kentucky Soybean Board marks 800 biodiesel course graduates

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Biodiesel is an important use for soybean oil. So important, in fact, that studies show this renewable, sustainable advanced biofuel contributes 13% to the selling price of every bushel of soybeans that farmers sell here in the United States. For reference, Kentucky soybean farmers grew 101,200,000 bushels in 2020.

Through an online course developed by the National Biodiesel Board, the Kentucky Soybean Board has been educating diesel tech students about soy biodiesel since 2013, and this semester marks a major milestone.

“I can’t believe we have had 800 people — mostly students, and also their teachers — take this course,” said Keith Tapp, a farmer-leader from Sebree who serves as Kentucky’s representative to the National Biodiesel Board. “I remember when soy biodiesel first got started. We were growing soybeans for the meal to feed livestock and poultry, and the oil was pretty much a byproduct. The United Soybean Board invested farmer checkoff dollars into finding a practical use for the oil, and now here we are, 30 years later, still benefitting from a great return on that investment.”

Tapp said that the renewable, sustainable nature of biodiesel, along with its cleaner-burning nature, is right in line with the attention that is currently being paid to environmental concerns. He added that because of the versatile nature of soybean oil and the push by manufacturers to transition from petroleum oil to more sustainable inputs, demand for soybean oil has skyrocketed.

“These students are the fleet managers and service advisors of the future,” he said, “and many of them are already turning wrenches in addition to attending classes. It’s important that they know about biodiesel and the benefits it can bring, both to a diesel engine and to the environment.”

Tapp recently presented certificates and flashlights to students at both Gateway Community and Technical Collage and Ashland Community and Technical College. He thinks it’s important that the students hear directly from a farmer whenever possible.

“Our staff knows a lot about biodiesel, and they do a great job talking about it,” Tapp said. “But there is something about being able to relate biodiesel back to my farm, and talk about how I use it in my farm equipment, and how much money biodiesel contributes to my operation’s bottom line that really drives the point home.”

The program is offered annually to diesel technician programs in the Kentucky Community and Technical College System, and farmer-leaders give the presentations whenever possible. In addition to framed certificates and logo flashlights, the Board also furnishes each program that has the required number of students complete the course with a passing grade a check made out to Snap-On Tools so that they can purchase tools to augment their programs.