Teaching Old Crops New Tricks

You've got a bold plan to turn old crops into new products--say, transform wheat into plastic or lesquerella seed into nylon. At a stroke, you could cut America's dependence on foreign oil, slash government subsidies for surplus crops, and save the family farm. But financing is scarcer than lips on a chicken, since most investors don't know their jojoba from their elbow. "When you start talking agriculture, they say, `There's the door. Don't let it hit you on the way out,"' laments Agriculture Dept. (USDA) agronomist Robert Armstrong.

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