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.
(Copyright 2013 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)