By: Carolyn Lange, West Central Tribune

BENSON — Sen. Amy Klobuchar saw nearly the entire life cycle of a turkey Friday, from day-old poults at a rural Svea farm to 40-pound toms a week away from slaughter to tons of turkey litter being burned at a bioenergy plant in Benson.

Agriculture and renewable energy are key components to a strong economy, said Klobuchar, who is continuing her tour today in west central Minnesota.

“I’ve always said on the floor of the Senate that rural Minnesota is where it’s at right now in terms of jobs and in terms of stability,” Klobuchar said.

Wearing blue jeans and sneakers, Klobuchar gamely faced all sizes of turkeys during a tour of the Gorans Brothers turkey farms in the Svea-Blomkest area and was thrilled to learn that this year’s turkey that would beg the pardon of President Obama will come from Willmar.

The turkey will get a send-off by local schools before traveling to the state Capitol and then to Washington, D.C., said Steve Olson, executive director of the Minnesota Turkey Growers Association.

Klobuchar said she’s currently working with a bipartisan group of senators to get a five-year commitment on the Farm Bill approved by the so-called Supercommittee, a joint panel tasked with recommending ways to reduce the deficit. Even though there will be reductions made to agriculture, Klobuchar said the Senate proposal will not include the “outrageous cuts” the House bill contained. Knowing what to expect over a five-year period would also benefit the ag sector.

Klobuchar said the group is “very close” to getting that agreement completed.

As part of the turkey tour, Klobuchar took a bouncy ride over rough field roads to watch turkey litter being spread on a recently harvested field and heard about the benefits of the fertilizer for growing crops.

Then she headed to the Fibrominn plant Benson where 500,000 tons of turkey litter is trucked in from a 70- to 100-mile radius and burned at 1,500 degrees Fahrenheit to produce 55 megawatts of electricity each year.

Klobuchar said Fibrominn, the country’s first energy plant powered by poultry litter, is the type of innovation the country needs to gain energy independence.

“If we’re going to go into the next century’s economy and be competitive, we need to produce our own energy,” she said, which will be good for American economy, environment and security.

Instead of the “silver bullet” approach where only one kind of renewable energy is investigated, a “silver buckshot” approach is necessary to use a variety of resources.

She said she’s been disappointed there hasn’t been action on energy legislation. She said a bipartisan group is working on a proposal, but she said a vote isn’t likely to happen until after next year’s election.

Klobuchar was surprised to learn that Benson has at least 50 manufacturing jobs that have gone unfilled because, in part, there aren’t enough skilled workers available.

She said the “Innovate America” bill she’s working on would emphasize two-year degrees in technical schools. “People need to understand that we need to start giving people the skills to fill the jobs we have,” she said.

Klobuchar said she was also going to put information about the need for employers in Benson on her Web site.