Friday, February 07, 2014

President Obama Tours Michigan Biotechnology Institute: "A Very Fancy Pressure Cooker"

POTUS & Sec. Vilsack watch a conversion demonstration
Joined by Sec. Vilsack, the President gets a demo of the latest in ag tech, and meets students raising piglets...
East Lansing, Mich - Ahead of signing the Farm Bill on Friday afternoon at Michigan State University, President Barack Obama toured the Michigan Biotechnology Institute to get a personal look at the latest innovations in agriculture.  Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack accompanied the President on the tour led by MSU President Lou Anna K. Simon

Earlier on Friday the White House announced that the President is establishing the "Made in Rural America" export and investment initiative, a project to help bring manufacturing back to rural America.  The President got a look at the kind of things the US might be exporting.

Clad in a dark suit, the President wore protective plastic eye goggles as he watched employees demonstrate how agriculture residues, such as corn stover (leaves, husks, stalks) and wheat straw, are converted into bio-based fuels, animal feed, and chemicals.  

Standing by tubes bubbling with brown liquid, the President explained the process to the press pool.

"What we're doing here is finding more efficient ways to convert it into usable pellets that can enhance the feeding of livestock, to a whole host of other things," President Obama said, adding that  the process is "energy efficient and environmentally sound."

"This is a very fancy pressure cooker," President Obama said, pointing to one converter.

As he made remarks ahead of signing the Farm Bill, the President told the crowd of 500  that during his tour he'd met students who are raising piglets on an organic farm.

"When I was in college, I lived in a pig sty," President Obama said to appreciative laughter. "But I didn't work in one.  So I’m impressed by that."

"That's no joke, by the way," he added. 

A scientist explains ag tech to POTUS
Michigan State University is America's first land-grant university, and Michigan Biotechnology Institute is a subsidiary.  They have established "an innovative collaboration framework for taking early stage bio-based technologies, originating in university labs or the private sector, to demonstration of commercial viability," the White House said.  

"The MBI Pilot Plant's industrial fermentation facility is unique in scale and capabilities among US universities."

Ahead of the tour, the President had a closed-press  lunch with Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan.  After the tour, he delivered remarks at MSU about the importance of agriculture to the US economy, then signed the Farm Bill in a quick ceremony, surrounded by Democratic lawmakers who had flown with him from Washington, DC, to Michigan.

POTUS with the "very fancy pressure cooker"
More than fifty Members of Congress were invited to join the President for the signing ceremony, but no Republicans took him up on the offer, Press Secretary Jay Carney told reporters during the press gaggle aboard Air Force One. 

The President arrived in Michigan in bitterly cold weather, landing aboard Air Force One at Capital City Airport in Lansing  at 12:12 PM.  Senate Agriculture Committee Chair Debbie Stabenow, the lead negotiator on the Agriculture Act of 2014, accompanied him.  MSU is her alma mater, and East Lansing is her home. 

Also joining the President on the flight from Washington, DC, were Sen. Pat Leahy (D-VT), Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn), Sen. Carl Levin (D-Mich), and Democratic Reps. Marcia Fudge (OH) and Dan Kildee (Mich).

President Obama returned to Washington, DC, late on Friday afternoon. 

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*Photos 1 & 2 by Nedra Pickler/pool; third by USDA