As drought continues across America, President Obama and I continue doing all we can to help farmers and ranchers. Last week, at the President’s direction, I convened a meeting of the White House Rural Council to ensure we’re doing all we can – and we’ll meet again to discuss drought in the coming days.
We’ll also continue to call on Congress to pass a Food, Farm and Jobs Bill as soon as possible, to give USDA more tools to help and to give more certainty to producers in this difficult time.
Meanwhile, at USDA we continue our work to help grow the economy and create jobs. This includes our support for innovative producers and rural businesses who are already working hard to boost the emerging bio-economy.
From household products made of homegrown crops, to remarkable advanced biofuels that are powering America’s ships and aircraft, the bio-based economy is strengthening our nation while bringing more jobs and economic security to rural America.
Today, more than 3,000 companies are producing more than 25,000 biobased products made from renewable sources grown here at home, and supporting 100,000 American jobs. These companies are developing a wide variety of products – from cleaners and paints to construction materials – for use at home, at work, and by industry.
USDA has created the “USDA Certified Biobased Product” label to help consumers identify these products – and today more than 700 of them are available in stores.
President Obama also directed the Federal government to increase procurement of bio-based products – and USDA has increased the number of bio-based products for Federal procurement to more than 9,000 in 77 categories.
We’ve also continued working to expand the program to even more categories, to support the innovative companies, farmers and communities who are on the cutting edge of the biobased economy.
Meanwhile, under the Obama Administration, USDA has made historic investments into the research and development of advanced renewable fuels – another key part of the growing biobased economy.
We’ve coordinated research centers in every region of the country to research the science needed for profitable, advanced biofuels feedstocks.
Through the Biorefinery Assistance Program, we’ve provided nearly 570 million dollars in loans to 7 advanced biorefineries across the country. These projects are using feedstocks like crop residue, woody biomass, municipal waste, and more to bring next-generation renewable energy to every part of our nation
Under the Biomass Crop Assistance Program, we’ve incentivized farmers to grow advanced feedstocks on nearly 60,000 acres, helping companies across the country spur production of new biofuels from non-food, non-feed sources.
We’re also working with the military to develop the next generation of aviation and marine biofuels from advanced feedstocks, helping reduce our military’s dependence on foreign oil. In fact, the Navy’s “Great Green Fleet” recently ran training exercises in Hawaii, powered entirely by advanced biofuels.
President Obama and I know that these advances are just the beginning. With support from USDA, the innovation of producers and rural businesses will continue to set us apart from the world in the decades to come. I’m confident that together we will create more homegrown jobs, and fuel our rural economy to new heights.
For an audio version of this week’s column, click here.