The U.S. Department of Agriculture is helping lead the way with a commitment to ushering in the new era for American energy– an economy fueled by locally-grown and alternative energy sources designed and produced by American workers. In President Barack Obama’s State of the Union Address, he laid out a blueprint for such an economy, which requires the safe and responsible production of our oil and natural gas resources.
As a result, the USDA is focusing on creating new opportunities for energy development in rural America. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack told WKVI that the USDA has been working hard to help Hoosiers produce feed stock for the bio-industry.
“I think its important for folks to know that the rural economy, and specifically ag-economy, is about as strong as it’s been in probably the last 40 years,” said Vilsack. “We actually had a record income level last year for farmers and a record amount of ag-exports and when you combine that with the work the USDA is doing in conservation and rural development and supporting farmers who are perhaps hit by tough weather, the combination of all that is making for better times in those rural areas and the unemployment rate is coming down at a much faster rate in rural America than in other locations.”
The USDA is also focusing on increasing energy efficiency, funding over 270 projects across Indiana to encourage farmers and businesses to be more energy efficient.
“When you combine that work with the work that we’ve done in improving 67 wastewater treatment plants in the state and improving about 2300 miles of new and upgraded electric lines, you see a real commitment to American-produced energy and a new commitment to more efficiency,” said Vilsack.
More than 70 community facility projects have been funded by the USDA, which help rural communities build fire station extensions, police stations, purchase hospital equipments, or anything else that the community may be in need of.
“It’s all designed to improve the quality of life in those rural areas. At the same time, we’re also helping folks buy a home in rural Indiana,” said Vilsack. “We’ve helped over 16,000 folks either buy or refinance their house. So that’s maintaining folks so they live, work, raise their families in these rural communities and improve the quality of life and job opportunities.”
The era of renewable energy and self-sustainability may be on its way to America, and Indiana could play a vital role in shaping the future of industry.