WASHINGTON - U.S. Department of Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack pledged on Oct. 21 to expand biofuel use in the department's fleet of vehicles.

"We are committed to make E-85 and other blends of biofuels, including biodiesel mixes, more conveniently located," he said. "We'll encourage more use of biofuels in our fleet of almost 43,000 vehicles. The impact can be significant." 

The Department of Agriculture reported 42,882 light-, medium-, and heavy-duty vehicles in the motor vehicle inventory in FY 2009. The approximate total fuel consumption was 19.5 million gallons. The miles traveled by the USDA motor vehicle fleet totaled approximately 342.5 million, with approximately $41 million in fuel costs reported. 

"We hope to provide the model for other federal departments with large vehicle fleets," Vilsack said. 

Vilsack also called for Congress to reinstate the biodiesel production tax credit and provide a "fiscally responsible" short-term extension of the volumetric ethanol excise tax credit. 

The announcement was made at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C., along with news that the Department of Agriculture's Rural Development office would provide matching funds to help install 10,000 blender pumps and storage systems over the next five years.