SIOUX CENTER, Iowa -- Agriculture Secretary Mike Johanns today released an analysis prepared by USDA economists of the department's renewable energy and energy efficiency programs.

This is the fourth in a series of subject areas that warranted a comprehensive examination based on comments received during last year's nationwide Farm Bill Forum listening tour.

"During the Farm Bill Forums, we heard real enthusiasm from producers about the potential for agriculture to unleash new sources of energy and income," said Johanns. "We have seen ethanol production more than double in four years. USDA is committed to encouraging the entrepreneurial innovation of America's farmers and ranchers to help build a new energy economy."

The paper released today looks at all the potential sources of energy under agriculture's umbrella, from farm fields to pasture and forest lands. It also tracks the results of USDA's renewable energy and energy efficiency programs and contemplates enhancements and alternatives to those programs. These alternatives do not represent specific farm bill proposals but instead are put forward to further public discussion.

In March 2006, Johanns announced the release of 41 papers summarizing the 4,000 comments received during 52 Farm Bill Forums, as well as those sent via mail and the Internet. Within those 41 papers emerged key themes USDA economists are studying in depth in preparation for 2007 farm bill discussions.

The first three theme papers covered risk management, conservation and the environment, and rural development. The fifth and final farm bill theme paper will examine opportunities to strengthen the foundation of U.S. agriculture.

The renewable energy analysis paper released today, as well as previously released analysis papers, are available at Transcripts of the Farm Bill Forums and the 41 Farm Bill comment summary papers are also posted there.

SOURCE: USDA news release.