By Richard Keller, AgProfessional editor

Various organizations favoring additional government support of biomass renewable energy production seemed thrilled by Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack and the USDA leadership's announcement last week of the "Renewable Energy Initiatives to Spur Rural Revitalization Throughout the Country."

What was missing from the announcement was the total investment of government funds for "acceleration of biofuel production."

The National 25x'25 alliance, which has a goal of securing 25 percent of the nation's energy needs from renewable sources by the year 2025, commended the USDA for the steps "that will boost domestic production of renewable biofuels."

"Vilsack and the department recognize that the acceleration of biofuel production is a national imperative that will reduce our dependence on foreign oil, create jobs and boost our economy, improve our environment and help maintain our global leadership in a clean energy economy," according to a statement from the 25x'25 alliance.

I wonder about how much of these flowery positives are proven and how much is wishful thinking. It seems that computations about how great biofuels are and will be to the economy are similar to the U.S. economic proclamations that the economic recession is over, and we are in recovery. The average person has a hard time seeing all the positives.

As with the recent announcement clearing the way for vehicles 2007 and newer to use 15 percent ethanol, not everyone sees the value — just ask the majority of livestock producers. Huge government investment in biofuels other than ethanol will probably negatively impact some business segments, and this will counter some of the positives being professed about biofuels.

The announcement goes "a long way toward fulfilling the promise of the U.S. biofuels industry by encouraging the development of a national network of regional biomass research centers and biorefineries, building market demand by using USDA Rural Development funds to install 10,000 blender pumps over the next five years and giving farmers greater incentives to grow new bioenergy crops," according to the 20x'25 statement.

The secretary also was commended for reasserting his support of extending tax credits that will expand ethanol and biodiesel production.

Per the announcement, the final rule implementing the Biomass Crop Assistance Program (BCAP) is being published this week. It expands a pilot program to a national program for making payments to producers of up to 75 percent of the cost to establish eligible new, non-food, non-feed biomass crops so that biomass renewable energy crops have been established before cellulosic ethanol production and other biomass energy technology is widespread.

Also noted, USDA's Economic Research Service (ERS) mirrored the findings of a University of Tennessee report commissioned by 25x'25 that shows replacing more petroleum with domestic biofuels reduces U.S. demand for oil imports, generates revenues and boosts wages. The big promise is that "next generation biofuels are considered to be a decreasing cost industry. This means that the cost of producing ethanol will decline as output increases," according to the ERS.

This is a conclusion that I'll have to see to believe. All the technology and production systems outlined so far in the biofuels industry have been looking for subsidies from the government and without an end in sight for these various subsidies. At least, we are including some more grower/producer subsidies in the BCAP rather than all industry subsidies.