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By Catharine Richert December 28, 2009

Obama encourages farmers to use renewable energy

On the campaign trail, Barack Obama made it clear that farmers can help slow climate change, too.

In part, his promises about incorporating the agricultural industry into his plan to reduce greenhouse gas emissions relied on making farming operations more environmentally friendly. To that end, Obama pledged to encourage farmers to use more renewable energy and become more energy efficient.

Here are a few ways the Obama administration has advanced this promise.

On Dec. 15, U.S. Department of Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced that the department will partner with dairy producers "to accelerate adoption of innovative manure-to-energy projects on American dairy farms" in an effort to cut greenhouse gas emissions 25 percent by 2020. Sounds a bit unsavory, right? In fact, Vilsack was talking about methane digesters, machines that trap gases released from livestock waste to make electricity. Given that methane is one of the greenhouse gases that contributes to global warming, the Agriculture Department figures that promoting digesters and advancing the research behind the technology will help curb emissions from livestock and dairy farms.

On May 5, Obama ordered the Department of Energy to expand the existing Rural Energy for America Program, an initiative that supports energy efficiency projects in rural communities, to include hydroelectric source technologies, energy audits and higher loan guarantee limits. Furthermore, Obama asked for about $68 million in new funding for the program in his budget, representing a thirteenfold increase in funding over the 2009 budget. Congress only approved $40 million, but that's far more than the program has received in the past.

Last spring, Vilsack also announced that farmers would now be able to apply for energy audit grants through an existing USDA program. The grants are meant to help agriculture producers and rural small businesses identify ways to improve energy efficiency. "The assistance provided by this program is in keeping with President Obama's energy conservation goals for our nation," Vilsack said.

So, Obama's promise was to simply encourage farmers to use more renewable energy and to be more energy efficient, and he's taken steps to do just that by proposing new initiatives and putting more money toward energy efficiency in rural communities. For this promise, we give Obama a Promise Kept.

Our Sources

U.S. Department of Agriculture, Agriculture Secretary Vilsack, Dairy Producers Sign Historic Agreement to Cut Greenhouse Gas Emissions by 25% by 2020 , accessed Dec. 23, 2009

GPO Access, Memorandum on Biofuels and Rural Economic Development , May 5, 2009

U.S. Department of Agriculture, Vilsack announces energy audit applications now being accepted , accessed Dec. 23, 2009

White House, 2010 Department of Agriculture budget

U.S. Department of Energy, EERE Funding Up 3 Percent to $2.24 Billion for Fiscal Year 2010 , accessed Dec. 23, 2009


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