What is in this article?:
- In a major speech, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack lauded U.S. agriculture then outlined the perils it faces in coming years.
- Vilsack’s comments touched on strengthening rural American infrastructure, strong export numbers for U.S. agriculture, the coming funding struggle over the next farm bill and biotechnology — particularly the GM alfalfa controversy.
Diversification and biofuels
Last October, the Obama administration rolled out an aggressive plan promoting biofuels. During his speech, Vilsack continued the push as a way to diversify agriculture and strengthen rural America.
The effort isn’t just “limited to corn-based ethanol. I'm talking about expanding opportunities in biofuels, so that every part of the country has a chance to benefit, every part of the country can produce biofuels and biodiesel, everyone has the capacity.”
Additional information about facilities and investments will soon be announced, said Vilsack.
Editor’s note: on Wednesday, Vilsack announced the EPA would back off expectations it would oversee greenhouse gas permitting requirements for biomass feedstocks. The EPA will now “defer for three years greenhouse gas permitting requirements for biomass and that it is also undertaking a scientific assessment of how emissions from biomass should be treated under the Clean Air Act,” said Vilsack.
Vilsack promised biofuel investments outside the Midwest “so that we create an opportunity in every corner of the country. Whether it's municipal waste or crop residue or woody biomass or livestock waste, all of that can be creating new opportunities in rural communities.
“When we reach 36 billion gallons of biofuel -- roughly one-fourth of what we need for our fuel needs in this country -- we will help to create one million new jobs in rural America and see an investment of over $100 billion.
“That's why it's important for us to have a diversified effort on biofuels. That's why we will have a conversation and discussion about how we can support this industry as it matures, and as oil prices go up, and they will no doubt go up, this becomes even more important from an energy security standpoint for the country. So any discussion about safety nets has to include a discussion about diversifying income opportunities.”