USDA highlights bioeconomy investments

By Erin Voegele | March 03, 2016

The USDA recently published a fact sheet highlighting its investments in rural America, including several related to sparking innovation in America’s bioeconomy to support the development of biomanufacturing and advanced biofuels.

According to fact sheet, USDA Rural Development has supported more than 15,000 renewable energy projects since 2009. These projects have helped producers and rural businesses save energy, increase their profitability and increase the production of renewable fuels.

The department has also helped thousands of rural small businesses, farmers and ranchers improve their bottom lines by installing renewable energy systems and energy efficiency solutions that will generate and save more than 9.4 billion kWh, which is enough energy to power 820,000 American homes annually.

The USDA also highlighted its support of commercial biorefineries under the Biorefinery Assistance Program and noted that it has supported the construction of six advanced biofuel production facilities, 2,200 wind and solar facilities, and 93 anaerobic digesters.

Approximately $100 million in grants has been made available under the Biofuel Infrastructure Partnership, nearly doubling the number of fuel pumps nationwide that supply renewable fuels, such as E15 and E85.

In addition, the USDA has added new categories of qualified biobased products for federal procurement and has taken new steps to establish reporting by federal contractors of biobased product purchases.

According to the USDA, a recent study has found the biobased products industry generates $369 billion and 4 million jobs each year for the American economy. The department also pointed out that the expanding bioeconomy means more choices for consumers and new jobs for rural America. The USDA indicated shifting 20 percent of the current plastics produced into bioplastics would create an estimated increase of 104,000 jobs nationwide.