Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Ag Secretary's News Conference

For a transcript of the news conference, go here.

Here's what he said on environmental issues:

I also want this Department to be a national leader in climate change mitigation, adaptation efforts. This of course will involve conservation, greater efficiency with the energy that we have, as well as new technologies and expanded opportunities in biofuels and renewable energy. I'm going to work to advance research and development and pursue opportunities to support the development of additional biofuels, wind power, and other renewable energy sources. We need to make sure that the biofuels industry has the necessary support to survive the recent downturn while at the same time promoting policies that will speed up the development of second and third-generation feedstocks for those biofuels that have the potential to significantly improve America's energy security and independence. I expect our farmers and ranchers will play a role in making progress on the great challenge of climate change and on other major environmental challenges. It's important to me that the USDA lead efforts to incentivize management practices that promote and provide clean air, clean water, and wildlife habitat, and to help farmers participate in markets that reward them for sequestering carbon and limiting greenhouse gas emissions. It is my hope that the Farm Bill's provisions in terms of energy and conservation can be implemented promptly and properly and that we see the Forest Service as a new opportunity for us to engage in climate change mitigation/adaptation strategies...

Later, in response to a question, he said:

Meanwhile, I think it is important for us to take a look at the fairly significant set of legislative proposals that were made in the energy title of the Farm Bill and to work very quickly to implement as many of those as possible. We need to create additional demand for advanced biofuels and renewable energy, working with farmers for example to determine how best they could change their operations to embrace renewable energy and fuel in their operations, working with rural communities to encourage the same, working with farmers to encourage them to produce biomass crops, working with the Forest Service to take a look at how the woody biomass operations may be called into play to increase the supply of second and third generation biofuels. There are a series of tax credits, grants, and loan programs designed to expand production facilities and to convert existing production facilities to use these new fuels. All of that is in the realm, if you will, of the USDA, and I think it's important for the USDA to aggressively promote these efforts. I think we are in a position to begin the march which President Obama has laid out of creating new green collar jobs. It can and should and I believe ought to begin in rural America, and I think USDA is prepared to do this.

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