Last week, in his State of the Union address President Barack Obama laid out his administration’s commitment to creating jobs in the energy sector. And U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack says his agency is already working toward that goal in rural communities across the country.
The USDA provides services to farmers and ranchers, like credit and crop insurance protection. But the agency is also mandated to work in rural areas. Vilsack says one of the ways they’ve been doing that is by promoting new energy opportunities outside of urban centers.
“So it’s a combination of a lot of different things and it’s very consistent with what the president talked about in his speech about made and grown in America and the ability of us to build an economy that’s built to last,” he said.
Over the past two years, Vilsack says the USDA aided nearly 300 renewable and energy efficiency projects on rural farms in Indiana. These, he says, run the gamut, both in size and scope.
“It could be small things. It could be improving the lighting in a farm operation to reduce the amount of energy in lighting barns and other barns and facilities,” he said. “It may be financing an anaerobic digester to turn gas from livestock into electricity that could be used to power the farm or even put on the grid.”
Other projects have focused on helping farmers install windmills and solar panels. And Vilsack says his office is very interested in the burgeoning biofuels industry.
“I think there’s a great future for this industry,” he said. “I think we’re going to continue to see new ways to produce it and more efficient ways to use the feed stocks we’ve identified in the past.”
Vilsack says he’d like to see biofuels not only used in cars and trucks, but in fuel for jets and ships as well.