USDA accepting applications for Biorefinery Assistance Program

By Erin Voegele | October 21, 2013

The USDA has announced it is accepting applications for the Biorefinery Assistance Program, which was created by the 2008 Farm Bill and is administered by USDA Rural Development. The program provides loan guarantees to viable commercial-scale facilities to develop new and emerging technologies for advanced biofuels. Applications are due Jan. 30, 2014.

According to information published in the Federal Register, the current notice provides approximately $76 million in available budget authority that will support a program level of approximately $181 million. The number of awards made through this round of applications and the anticipated award date are yet to be determined.

"This financing will expand the number of commercial biorefineries in operation in the U.S. that are producing advanced biofuels from non-food sources," said Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack. "USDA's Biorefinery Assistance Program is yet another way USDA is helping to carry out the Obama Administration's 'all-of-the-above' energy strategy to develop every possible source of American-made energy. But the benefits go beyond reducing our dependence on foreign oil. These biorefineries are also creating lasting job opportunities in rural America and are boosting the rural economy as well."

A wide variety of entities are eligible for the program, including Indian tribes, state or local governments, corporations, farmer co-ops, agricultural producer associations, higher education institutions, rural electric co-ops, public power entities or consortiums of any of the above.

Since the start of the Obama administration, the USDA Biorefinery Assistance Program has provided approximately $684 million in assistance to support biofuel projects in eight states. In a press release announcing the latest round of funding availability, the USDA highlighted two program success stories. Sapphire Energy Inc.’s Green Crude Farm in Columbus, N.M., was supported by a $54.5 million USDA loan guarantee, which was awarded in 2011. The facility has been in continuous operation since May 2012. After receiving additional equity from private investors, Sapphire was able to repay the remaining balance on its USDA-backed loan earlier this year. The USDA also highlighted a $12.8 million loan guarantee to Fremont Community Digester for construction of an anaerobic digester in Fremont, Mich. That award was also made in 2011. The project began commercial operations late last year.

Additional information on the application process is available here.