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Farmers and ranchers continue to lead the charge towards a more sustainable energy future. According to the 2012 Census of Agriculture, 57,299 farms reported using a renewable energy producing system in 2012. That's more than double the 23,451 operations that reported the same in 2007. Solar panels accounted for 63% of renewable energy producing systems on farms, with 36,331 farms reporting their use. To create jobs in rural communities, drive economic growth, and help reduce our dependence on foreign oil, USDA continues to aggressively pursue investments in renewable energy.

Support for Growers, Landowners and Producers of Renewable Energy Feedstocks

  • To encourage feedstock production for renewable energy, USDA established a program to incentivize more than 850 growers and landowners farming nearly 48,000 acres to establish and produce dedicated, nonfood energy crops to energy conversion facilities.
  • To support farmers producing biomass for renewable energy, USDA offers insurance coverage for farmers growing biofuel crops like switch grass and camelina and we are helping identify American farmland most suitable for growing energy crops.
  • In our National Forests, we contracted with private businesses to remove 2.6 million tons of biomass to produce energy annually.
  • Since 2009, USDA has invested about $320 million to accelerate research on renewable energy ranging from genomic research on bioenergy feedstock crops, to development of biofuel conversion processes and costs/benefit estimates of renewable energy production.
  • Completed a Biofuels Roadmap identifying barriers to and proposed plan of action to meet congressionally mandated RFS2 goals for national biofuels production.
  • Coordinated six regional research centers to work on the science necessary to ensure profitable biofuels can be produced from a diverse range of feedstocks across the nation.

Investments in Renewable Energy Production

  • USDA has funded more than 230 job-creating projects that use renewable woody biomass for energy generation and other uses.
  • USDA has helped lead an effort to promote the domestic production and use of advanced biofuels with the potential to create hundreds of thousands of jobs in rural communities. Invested in research, supported farmers growing bioenergy feedstocks, and helped support hundreds of bioenergy and renewable energy projects nationwide.
  • Through our Biorefinery Assistance Program, we are supporting efforts to build 4 biorefineries to produce advanced biofuels in Oregon, Nevada, North Carolina, and Iowa.
  • To encourage the production of advanced biofuels from non-food sources, USDA made payments through the Advanced Biofuel Payment Program worth approximately $279 million to over 300 companies already producing biofuels from non- corn feedstocks in 47 states.
  • USDA supported enough renewable electricity generation projects between 2009 and 2012 to power more than 120,000 homes annually. This included more than 380 wind energy projects.

Support for Energy Efficiency and On-Farm Energy Generation

  • Over the past five years, USDA investments have helped thousands of rural small businesses, farmers and ranchers improve their bottom lines by installing renewable energy systems and energy efficiency solutions, which will generate and save more than 7.5 billion kWh – enough energy to power 650,000 American homes annually. USDA also made $250 million in loans available to help rural home owners make energy efficiency upgrades.
  • Since 2009, USDA has financed over $1.7 billion to help rural electricity providers make environmental improvements of carbon-emitting power plants that will reduce emissions, bring significant cost savings, and improve the quality of life for those living and working in rural America.
  • Supported efforts to create 93 anaerobic digesters to help farm operations produce electricity from captured methane. Thanks to a partnership with the Innovation Center for U.S. Dairy to cut greenhouse emissions from U.S. dairy operations, most of these projects are at dairy operations.

Support for Aviation Biofuels

  • We have forged partnerships with the FAA and the aviation industry to promote aviation biofuels to help meet our nation's energy needs, combat global climate change, and fuel economic growth. The national work is being expanded at the regional and state level, and two commercial airlines have flown their first domestic flights powered by biofuels.
  • USDA, through the National Institute of Food and Agriculture's (NIFA) Agriculture and Food Research Initiative (AFRI), invested $80 million in research focused on developing feedstocks for aviation biofuels.
  • In 2010, USDA entered into a partnership the Department of Energy and U.S. Navy to invest up to $510 million to produce advanced, drop-in aviation and marine biofuels to power military and commercial transportation. Awards will be announced in 2014 for companies that will supply the US Navy with advanced drop-in biofuels.
  • We have invested in a New Mexico facility in to produce “green crude” oil from algae, which can be refined into transportation fuel.