U.S.D.A. meets biofuels directive deadline: Vilsack

by Bryan Salvage
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WASHINGTON — In response to a presidential directive to expedite and increase biofuels production, U.S.D.A. has met its 30-day deadline to help produce more energy from homegrown, renewable sources, according to Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack.

"Further developing the biofuels industry helps create jobs and stimulates rural economies, an important part of getting our economy back on track," Mr. Vilsack said. "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."

President Obama asked U.S.D.A. on May 5 to expedite the biofuels provisions of the energy title of the 2008 Farm Bill within 30 days, including:

  • 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
  • Providing guidance and support for collection, harvest, storage, and transportation in biomass conversion facilities

U.S.D.A. 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, the agency awarded an $80 million loan guarantee for the production of cellulosic ethanol. A second round of applications received as part of an April 30 solicitation for applications is currently under review. These involve second- and third-generation biofuel technologies to produce cellulosic ethanol, biodiesel, and methane gas and electricity. Awards for the second round are projected for Sept. 15.

U.S.D.A. 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. The agency will also provide $30 million to provide payments to eligible agricultural producers to support and ensure an expanding production of advanced biofuels.

U.S.D.A. 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.

The agency is launching a program to 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.

U.S.D.A., through the Farm Service Agency, will provide matching payments for collecting, harvesting, storing and transporting eligible materials at a rate of one dollar for each dollar per dry ton paid by a qualified biomass conversion facility for the biomass. The matching payments will not exceed $45 per ton and material providers will be eligible for up to two years of payments.

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