The Department of Agriculture is looking at going beyond corn to make alternative fuels. The Undersecretary for Rural Development, Dallas Tonsager, is promoting the use of other crops and materials for ethanol production.
Tonsager says the Department can help operations get started with grants, loans and loan guarantees.
"These second and third generation biofuels, we can help finance those," Tonsager said. "They are generally very, very expensive projects, so we are interested in working with anybody who is interested in developing those kind of ventures and we are interested in getting into almost any kind of material that might be used for biofuel."
As for what materials can be used, Tonsager says there are a lot of options and they're trying to find even more.
"USDA has set up five research centers across the country that are devoted to looking at materials that could be potentially used," Tonsager said. "So anything that has a lot of carbohydrates that can be converted to a sugar fairly simply are candidates. Along with that products that can be made into a biodiesel fuel like animal fat or an oil and some products can be made into a jet fuel."
The five research centers are located in Pullman, Wash., Maricopa, Ariz., Lincoln, Neb., Booneville, Ark., and Tifton, Ga. Even with impending budget cuts for USDA, the Undersecretary says they will continue to focus on developing new ways to turn biomass into energy. He suggests interested farmers contact their USDA field office for more information on available programs.