Commentary: Biofuels hold opportunity to grow rural economy

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At USDA, we’ve made record efforts in the past four years to support homegrown energy. This year, we’re looking ahead to a promising future for biofuels.

Biofuels have already contributed a great deal to our economy, to our energy security and to the bottom line on our farms and ranches. Today we’re taking steps to strengthen the biofuels industry and helping innovate the next generation of advanced biofuels.

For example, we’ve invested more than $320 million into biofuels research to help accelerate the development of technology needed to take the next big steps.

USDA has complemented those investments with the creation of six new research centers across America to develop new strategies for biofuels creation, while ensuring that each region of the nation can contribute to homegrown energy.

We are also working to strengthen the whole supply chain for advanced biofuels, from the farmers who grow energy crops to the end users of advanced biofuels.

Since 2009, USDA has helped provide an incentive for hundreds of growers to raise nearly 60,000 acres of advanced biofuel crops.

We’ve supported more than 200 biorefineries in their efforts to produce advanced biofuels, while making loan guarantee commitments to support construction of nine new advanced refineries across the country.

We have also taken steps to identify and expand new markets for these advanced biofuels. For example, USDA is working with the Department of Energy and the Department of the Navy to expand advanced biofuels for military aviation and maritime use.

Last summer, the Navy’s “Great Green Fleet” conducted groundbreaking exercises off the coast of Hawaii, with ships and aircraft powered by advanced biofuels. We’re also working with the Federal Aviation Administration to promote the production of advanced biofuel for commercial aircraft.

This year, we’re focused on helping advanced biofuel producers reach a goal of 14 million gallons of production. We’ll continue working to identify barriers to the production of these new fuels. We’ll also work with all of our partners to help develop solutions, such as new opportunities for multi-cropping production.

In the months ahead, USDA will continue to provide support for research and infrastructure. At the same time, we’ll explore new efforts to provide flexibility for folks all along the supply chain. The production and use of advanced biofuels has already had a very positive impact for our nation, and biofuels hold even more opportunity to create jobs and economic prosperity for rural America in the years ahead.

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