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USDA funds renewable energy production

Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack announced recently that biofuels and biomass energy projects across America have been selected for funding to continue the Barack Obama administration's support for the development of renewable fuels. Vilsack highlighted the various investments USDA made since he laid out a broad vision to spur rural revitalization through renewable energy production in a speech at the National Press Club in October 2010.

"Building an active biofuels and biomass industry in every region of the country will help to create jobs and provide economic opportunity for people who live in rural communities," said Vilsack. "The Obama administration knows these investments will benefit all of America because renewable energy provides the opportunity for a cleaner environment and greater energy security for our country."

The Biorefinery Assistance Program (Section 9003 of the 2008 farm bill) provides loan guarantees to entrepreneurs eager to take advantage of the growing opportunities in renewable energy provided by advanced biofuels. The announcement includes three projects totaling $405 million in guarantee loans.

In separate energy releases, Vilsack announced payments made to eligible producers under the Advanced Biofuels Payment Program (section 9005 of the 2008 farm bill) to support and ensure an expanding production of advanced biofuels and $1.6 million in grant funding for 68 feasibility studies under the Rural Energy for America Program (section 9007 of the 2008 farm bill).

For example, in Hale County, Texas, Select Milk Producers, Inc. was selected to receive a $17,500 feasibility study grant to analyze all aspects of a proposed anaerobic digester project, including evaluating the conversion of biogas to electricity, compressed natural gas for injection into natural gas pipelines, and compressed natural gas for use as a diesel fuel replacement.

As part of USDA's commitment to reduce America's dependence on imported oil by developing alternative, renewable energy sources, USDA will soon issue new rules for the Biorefinery Assistance Program, Section 9003; Repowering Assistance Program, Section 9004; and Bioenergy Program for Advanced Biofuels Payments To Advanced Biofuel Producers, Section 9005. The new rules will provide additional opportunities for development of advanced biofuels projects. Vilsack also noted that on the same date the rule for Section 9005 is published, a Notice of Funding Availability for fiscal year 2010 funds will also be published.

This funding is an example of the many ways that USDA is helping revitalize rural economies to create opportunities for growth and prosperity, support innovative technologies, identify new markets for agricultural producers, and better utilize our nation's natural resources.



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