“The biggest role that farmers can play is to participate in defining the practical aspects of feedstock production, harvest, transport and storage to ensure an economically viable approach can be developed,” says RAE's Schlicher. “Farmers can be a part of determining what works and what doesn't and can help identify what else needs to be resolved.” At the same time, farmers should be compensated for being a part of the analysis, she suggests.

Farmers should consider investing in collection and storage equipment to create a new income stream for their operations when the time is right, Broin says. “As we draw nearer to producing cellulosic ethanol, we will work with farmers so that they can make informed decisions,” he says. “But that's still a ways away. Commercial cellulosic facilities beyond our Emmetsburg plant won't begin construction until 2011 at the earliest so farmers have some time to observe and plan for the future.”