"Further developing the biofuels industry helps create jobs and stimulates rural economies, an important part of getting our economy back on track," said Vilsack. "President Obama and I are committed to advancing clean and renewable energy as it creates jobs domestically and boosts tax revenues at all levels of government."
On May 5, President Obama asked USDA to expedite the biofuels provisions of the energy title of the 2008 Farm Bill within 30 days, including the following:
- Providing loan guarantees and grants for biorefineries;
- Expediting funding to encourage biorefineries to replace the use of fossil fuels in plant operations;
- Expediting funding to encourage production of next-generation biofuels;
- Expanding the Rural Energy for America Program; and
- Providing guidance and support for collection, harvest, storage, and transportation in biomass conversion facilities.
Details about USDA's recent efforts to support the biofuels industry are:
Loan Guarantees for Biorefineries
USDA is currently reviewing a $25 million loan guarantee application to retrofit a biodiesel refinery to produce second-generation biofuels. The funding of this venture will be the second such guarantee to be funded under the 2008 Farm Bill. In January, USDA awarded an $80 million loan guarantee for the production of cellulosic ethanol. A second round of applications received as part of an April 30, 2009 solicitation for applications is currently under review.
Assistance for Biorefineries Replacing Fossil Fuels
USDA will provide up to $20 million to offer financial assistance to biorefineries to replace fossil fuels used to produce heat or operate biorefineries with renewable biomass.
Encourage Production of Next-Generation Biofuels
USDA will provide $30 million to provide payments to eligible agricultural producers to support and ensure an expanding production of advanced biofuels.
Rural Energy for America Program
USDA is now accepting applications for feasibility studies, loan guarantees, and grants for renewable energy systems and energy efficiency improvements as well as for applications to conduct energy audits on behalf of agriculture producers and rural small businesses. Funds will be used to assist agricultural producers and rural small businesses by conducting energy audits and providing recommendations and information on renewable energy development assistance and improving energy efficiency. For more information on this program and application deadlines, please visit www.rurdev.usda.gov.
Biomass Crop Assistance Program
USDA is launching a program that will provide compensation for the collection, harvest, storage, and transportation of biomass intended to meet the country's energy needs in a more sustainable manner. The program will provide financial assistance for delivery of eligible biomass material to conversion facilities that use biomass for heat, power, bio-based products or biofuels. For more information on this program, visit www.fsa.usda.gov/energy.