AMARILLO - Enormous advances and opportunities are occurring in agricultural and industrial biotechnology, offering a chance to revitalize rural economies in Texas, a West Texas A&M University official said.

West Texas A&M, Texas Agricultural Experiment Station, Texas Department of Agriculture, U.S. Department of Agriculture-Rural Development and the Amarillo Economic Development Corporation are hosting a special seminar to spotlight the possibilities.

“The New BioEconomy: What We Have to Be Excited About” will be held from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. April 5 at the Texas A&M University System Agricultural Research and Extension Center, 6500 Amarillo Boulevard West. Currently, agribusiness in the High Plains trade area contributes $3.7 billion to the Texas economy, said Steve Gens, who is developing the West Texas A&M University Biotechnology Initiative.

With the introduction of bio-refining alone, that economic value could rise to more than $18 billion in three to five years, Gens said. This economic activity will be spurred by the utilization of agricultural residues - crop and livestock - that are now tentatively useless waste products.

“This meeting is the first step in an organized effort to bring positive economic development to rural Texas through the development of agricultural and industrial technology,” Gens said.

Headlining the day of speakers is Ward Huffman of Denver, bioenergy consultant-U.S. Department of Energy, retired. He will discuss supporting the bio-refinery industry.

Other experts speaking throughout the day will cover topics such as: biomass crops, rangeland biomass, biomass liquid fuels, bio-conversion of animal residues, fueling a bio-refinery with agricultural residues, wind energy and the growing dairy industry.

Afternoon sessions will focus on how to access economic development funding from Rural Development, Department of Agriculture and West Texas A&M.

At the end of the program, Gens said, attendees will be asked if they would like to join a work group that will review and recommend projects for the rural economic development program. A Phase II seminar will be held in three months and each committee will report its findings.

Admission is $12. Advance registration is preferred. Checks should be made payable to WTAMU Seminar and sent to Steve Gens, West Texas A&M University, WTAMU Box 60997, Canyon, Texas 79016. Gens can be contacted at (806) 651-2099.