The U.S. Department of Agriculture announced up to $14.5 million in funding for two USDA bioenergy programs made available through the 2014 Farm Bill. USDA's Rural Development (RD) announced it is accepting applications from companies seeking to offset the costs associated with converting fossil fuel systems to renewable biomass fuel systems, while USDA's National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) announced the availability of $2.5 million in grants to enhance national energy security through the development of bio-based transportation fuels, biopower, and new bio-based products.
USDA also announced a valuable aid to those in, or interested in, starting a bio-energy business, the Bioeconomy Tool Shed. The Tool Shed is a portal offering users access to a complement of web-based tools and information, statistical data and other resources related to the sustainable production and conversion of biomass into products and fuel, a process often referred to as the bioeconomy.
"These USDA investments are part of the Obama Administration's 'all-of-the-above' energy strategy, and they benefit our economy as well as the environment," Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said. "USDA's support for bio-based technologies is good for the climate, and enhances rural economic development while it decreases our dependence on foreign sources of oil." He concluded, "These and other USDA efforts will create new products out of homegrown agriculture from this and future generations of American farmers and foresters."
USDA plans to make up to $12 million in payments for eligible biorefineries through RD's Repowering Assistance Program, which was reauthorized by the 2014 Farm Bill. Biorefineries in existence on or before June 18, 2008 are eligible for payments to replace fossil fuels used to produce heat or power with renewable biomass. Since President Obama took office, USDA has provided $6.9 million to help biorefineries transition from fossil fuels to renewable biomass systems. Applications, deadlines and details will be published in the Federal Register on Monday, June 16, 2014.
USDA is also seeking applications for NIFA's Sun Grants program that encourages bioenergy and biomass research collaboration between government agencies, land-grant colleges and universities, and the private sector. Congress authorized the Sun Grant program in the 2008 Farm Bill and reauthorized the program in 2014. The program provides grants to five grant centers and one subcenter, which then will make competitive grants to projects that contribute to research, education and outreach for the regional production and sustainability of possible biobased feedstocks. The project period will not exceed five years.
The newest addition to the USDA Energy Web, the Tool Shed can help those interested in bio-energy business ventures by providing access to the data and information necessary to evaluate potential opportunities across the entire supply chain: from feedstock production, to bioenergy production, bioenergy use, and linkages between feedstock production, bioenergy production and use. The tool is designed to assist in evaluating the feasibility and opportunities for locating a new biorefinery. It provides the stakeholder access to information on demographics, land use, biomass, feedstock, economics, and financial management.
Today's announcements were made possible through the 2014 Farm Bill, which builds on historic economic gains in rural America over the past five years while achieving meaningful reform and billions of dollars in savings for the taxpayer. Since enactment, USDA has made significant progress to implement each provision of this critical legislation, including providing disaster relief to farmers and ranchers; strengthening risk management tools; expanding access to rural credit; funding critical research; establishing innovative public-private conservation partnerships; developing new markets for rural-made products; and investing in infrastructure, housing and community facilities to help improve quality of life in rural America. For more information, visit www.usda.gov/farmbill.