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Topinka outlines farm and energy plans

Topinka outlines farm and energy plans

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SPRINGFIELD — State Treasurer Judy Baar Topinka cast herself as a friend of the farmer Monday - at least a better one than Gov. Rod Blagojevich has been, she said.

At a news conference at the Illinois State Fair, Topinka unveiled her plans for agriculture and energy issues if she beats Blagojevich in the November election.

Her platform revolves around clean energy, whether it comes from corn, soybeans, wind or environmentally friendlier coal-fired power plants, such as the experimental $1 billion FutureGen project.

"I want to make Illinois the clean energy capital of the nation," said Topinka, a Republican from Riverside who is in her third term as treasurer.

Topinka claims that the Blagojevich administration has lacked a commitment to agriculture.

She said Blagojevich has not been aggressive in backing an increase in the amount of ethanol that is produced in Illinois. And, she said, Blagojevich earlier attempted to raise taxes on certain agricultural products, such as seed and fertilizer.

If such a proposal were to reach her desk, she said, "I would veto it faster than you can say 'Blagojevich.'"

Blagojevich campaign spokeswoman Sheila Nix said Topinka's many of Topinka's ideas aren't new and that the governor has been a strong supporter of clean energy and farming.

"Rod has a strong commitment to ethanol," said Nix.

To spur construction of ethanol, biodiesel and wind energy facilities, Topinka is calling for a $500 million loan program that would help bankroll construction costs.

She also is calling for the conversion of the state's motor fleet, including vehicles owned by state universities, to run on a blend of ethanol fuel by 2012.

Nix said the governor will outline his long-term energy plan in the coming weeks.

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