The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Rural Development (RD) has announced up to $14.5 million in funding to two program funding through the 2014 Farm Bill. RD is accepting applications for companies seeking to offset the costs associated with converting fossil fuel systems to renewable biomass fuel systems. USDA’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) is offering $2.5 million in grants designed to improve national energy security through the development of bio-based transportation fuels (biodiesel or ethanol, etc.) biopower and new bio-based products.
As part of the programs, the USDA is also offering assistance to individuals, or companies interested in starting a bio-energy business called the Bioeconomy Tool Shed. The Tool Shed is a free 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,” said Tom Vilsack, USDA Ag Secretary. “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. 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.