FIVE POINTS, Calif. (AP) - In California's Central Valley, a once-dominant crop that has nearly disappeared from the state's farms is making a comeback: sugar beets.
But these beets won't be processed into sugar. A dozen farmers, supported by university experts and a $5 million state grant, are set to start construction on a Fresno County demonstration plant that will convert the beets into ethanol.
If the demo project succeeds, the farmers will build the nation's first commercial-scale bio-refinery in nearby Mendota to turn beets into biofuel. Europe already has more than a dozen such plants, but 95 of the ethanol in the U.S. is made from corn.
The farmers say the bio-refinery would bring jobs and investment to an area that's dealing with water pumping restrictions and overly salty soils.