This is an excerpt from EERE Network News, a weekly electronic newsletter.

February 23, 2011

USDA Requests Renewable Energy Funds in FY 2012 Budget

Although President Obama's fiscal year (FY) 2012 proposed budget for the U.S. Department of Agriculture decreased to $23.9 billion from the $27 billion level in FY 2010, the budget still invests $6.5 billion to support renewable and clean energy. In particular, the Agriculture and Food Research Initiative is getting an increase of $8.2 million for a research initiative to develop high-quality, cost-effective feedstocks for biofuel production. And the Rural Business-Cooperative Services, which operates a renewable energy loan and grant program for the purchase of renewable energy systems and energy efficiency improvements, will see a combination of mandatory funding and grants for programs at about $57 million above the 2011 total.

The proposed USDA budget provides $6.1 billion for loans for electric programs, with $4 billion used for generation, transmission, and distribution of renewable energy. This sum is down from the estimated FY 2011 funding, but still provides Rural Utilities Services with extensive resources that can be used to purchase or construct peaking units in conjunction with an electric generating plant that produces electricity from solar, wind, or other intermittent source of energy. The loans also can support applicants seeking to switch from fossil fuels to renewable technologies. As further evidence of support for renewables, the Agricultural Research Service (ARS) would see an increase in allocations totaling $58.7 million to conduct research and maintain ARS laboratories to tackle critical issues, including improving the efficiency and reducing the cost for the conversion of agricultural products into bio-based products and biofuels. See USDA Secretary Vilsack's statement, the Office of Management and Budget fact sheet for the USDA, and the USDA budget summaryPDF , notably pages 3, 46–48, 96, and 102.