The invention provides methods for decreasing lignin content and for increasing the level of fermentable carbohydrates in plants by down-regulation of the NST transcription factor. Nucleic acid constructs for down-regulation of NST are described. Transgenic plants are provided that comprise reduced lignin content. Plants described herein may be used, for example, as improved biofuel feedstock and as highly digestible forage crops. Methods for processing plant tissue and for producing ethanol by utilizing such plants are also provided.