This is the sixth rural economic project Vilsack announced in the past two weeks. He announced $100 million in financial assistance to acquire permanent easements from eligible landowners and assist with wetland restoration on almost 24,000 acres in the Northern Everglades Watershed. The Small Business Administration (SBA) is doubling its amount of loan money to small businesses. The Department of Labor and USDA are partnering to ensure field offices in rural areas have access to DoL information on job opportunities. The Navy, Department of Energy and USDA announced a partnership to increase the production of aviation biofuel. Also, 900 more Rural Energy for America Program (REAP) awards were distributed to companies implementing renewable energy and energy efficiency measures in their operations.
The biofuel project involving the partnership between the USDA, DoE and the Navy drew criticism from Rep. Collin Peterson (D-Minn.), ranking member of the House Agriculture Committee, who said that the plan threatens Minnesota’s 21 ethanol plants.
“‘I think that is a big a problem,” he said. “It is just another competition for us in ethanol that we don’t need really.”
Vilsack responded to Peterson’s concerns today by saying the partnership does not threaten ethanol operations in Minnesota because it requires production of aviation fuel instead of standard transportation fuel, which he said are two separate entities with different approaches.
“We’re still going to continue to need what the ethanol producers in Minnesota and Iowa are producing in order for us to wean ourselves off of foreign oil,” Vilsack said. “The President has challenged us to reduce our reliance by a third in 10 years, and that’s going to require all the ethanol production facilities as well as additional bio-refineries throughout the country.”
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