USDA awards funds to expand, accelerate wood energy markets

By USDA | April 09, 2015

On April 9, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced the award of over $9 million to expand and accelerate wood energy and other wood product markets. The federal funds will leverage $22 million in investments from partners, resulting in a total investment of $31 million in 23 states.

"Working with our partners, the Forest Service is promoting deployment of new technologies, designed to support new market opportunities for wood energy and innovative wood building materials," said Vilsack. "This funding also supports forest management needs on the National Forest System and other forest lands throughout the United States."

"The Forest Service recognizes the need for a strong forest products industry to help accomplish forest restoration work," said Forest Service Chief Tom Tidwell. "One of the best opportunities for reducing the cost of restoration treatments is to ensure strong markets for the byproducts of these treatments."

This year over 100 proposals were received for the Wood Innovations grant program, highlighting the expanding use of wood as a renewable energy source and as a building material. The awarded funds will stimulate the use of hazardous fuels from National Forest System lands and other forested lands to promote forest health while simultaneously generating rural jobs.

More information on the grant and cooperative agreement program is available here.

States receiving funding include: Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, Idaho, Illinois, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Montana, North Carolina, Nebraska, Nevada, Oregon, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, South Dakota, Utah, Virginia, Vermont, Washington, and Wisconsin. See a complete list of the awards.

Today, the secretary also announced a new partnership agreement between USDA and the Softwood Lumber Board to help coordinate research, demonstration and market development for innovative wood building technologies in the built environment. The SLB is an industry-funded research and promotion program, overseen by the Agricultural Marketing Service, that promotes the benefits and uses of softwood lumber products in outdoor, residential and non-residential construction. Through cooperative planning and execution of research and promotional activities, the USDA and SLB will strive to create jobs in rural communities, expand wood use in the built environment and stimulate demand for forest products.

The mission of the Forest Service, part of the USDA, is to sustain the health, diversity, and productivity of the Nation's forests and grasslands to meet the needs of present and future generations. The agency manages 193 million acres of public land, provides assistance to state and private landowners, and maintains the largest forestry research organization in the world. Public lands the Forest Service manages contribute more than $13 billion to the economy each year through visitor spending alone. Those same lands provide 20 percent of the nation's clean water supply, a value estimated at $7.2 billion per year. The agency has either a direct or indirect role in stewardship of about 80 percent of the 850 million forested acres within the U.S., of which 100 million acres are urban forests where most Americans live.