Deputy ag secretary nominee stresses importance of biofuels

By Erin Voegele | April 27, 2021

Jewel Bronaugh, President Biden’s nominee to serve as deputy secretary of agriculture, discussed the important role biofuels and bioenergy will play in meeting the administration’s climate goals during a senate confirmation hearing on April 22.

Biden nominated Bronaugh to fill the post at the USDA in mid-February. She has a long history of service in the ag sector. In April 2018, Bronaugh was appointed to serve as commissioner of the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services. She also previously served as executive director of the Center of Agriculture Research, Engagement and Outreach at Virginia State University. In 2015, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack appointed Bronaugh to serve as the Virginia state executive director for the Farm Service Agency, where she led implementation of the Farm Bill.

Bronaugh appeared before the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry on April 22 to field questions related to her nomination. A vote on her nomination is expected to be held soon.

During the event, Sen. Roger Marshall, R-Kan., questioned her on her support for biofuels. “Farmers and ranchers are the original conservationists,” he said.  “Nobody is more motivated to leave our environment cleaner, healthier, safer for our children, for our grandchildren than farmers and ranchers. And I think biofuels can have a great impact on that.” Marshall said he is convinced that the carbon footprint of vehicles fueled with renewable diesel or biodiesel has a lower carbon footprint than electric cars, and asked Bronaugh to share her thoughts on biofuels.  

“The use of biofuels, ethanol, and bioenergy have a critical role to play in helping to reduce carbon emissions and helping to address critical climate change goals,” Bronaugh said. “I think it will be very important to…educate people on the environmental benefits of biofuels and bioenergy [and] to expand uses for bioenergy.”

Bronaugh said it is important that the USDA promote renewable fuels production and infrastructure development to support the expanded availability of renewable fuels. She also said it’s important for the agency to consider how bioenergy production and renewable fuels can be utilized to create clean energy jobs in rural America.

“If I have the opportunity to be confirmed, I will join Secretary Vilsack and members of the industry—corn industry and others—in fully supporting the use of biofuels and bioenergy to reach important climate change goals,” Bronaugh said.

Additional information, including a reply of the hearing, is available on the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry website.