The biodiesel tax incentive moved a step closer to being extended Monday.

The U.S. Senate voted by a wide and bipartisan margin to end debate (invoke cloture) on the Tax Relief, Unemployment Insurance Reauthorization, and Job Creation Act of 2010. The legislation retroactively extends the $1-a-gallon biodiesel blenders credit, which had expired at the end of 2009, through 2011.

"This is an important step in what we expect will ultimately be a positive successful passage of the biodiesel tax credit," said Iowa Soybean Association CEO Kirk Leeds. "It's been a long road to this point.... Successful passage will create more certainty for both biodiesel manufacturers and customers in 2011."

The National Biodiesel Board also is optimistic that the measure is headed for actual passage, according to published reports.

The approval of the motion to invoke cloture sets the stage for final U.S. Senate passage of the tax bill; once cloture has been invoked, a simple majority is required to pass a bill. The U.S. House must also approve the legislation before presenting to President Obama for signature.

In addition to being important to the biodiesel industry, the biodiesel tax incentive is important to Iowa soybean farmers as it helps provide strong demand for soybean oil.

The biodiesel tax incentive is structured in a manner that makes the fuel price competitive with conventional diesel fuel in the marketplace. The lapse of the tax incentive on December 31, 2009, had a detrimental impact on the domestic biodiesel industry. Conversely, retroactive reinstatement and extension of the tax incentive through 2011, as provided for in the tax legislation pending before the U.S. Senate, is widely expected to significantly increase the domestic production and use of biodiesel, according to biodiesel supporters.