INVER GROVE HEIGHTS, MN – Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack on April 20 highlighted renewable energy contributions to the Minnesota economy while touring CHS Inc., the nation's largest agricultural cooperative and one of the nation's largest suppliers of ethanol fuel. Later, Vilsack led a renewable fuel stakeholders meeting.

Vilsack said that Minnesota USDA staff have partnered with agricultural producers through the Rural Energy for America Program (REAP), bringing benefits to agriculture producers and small businesses throughout the state. Through this program, Minnesota has received grants and loan guarantees for biomass projects, anaerobic digesters, wind, solar, geothermal direct use, and projects to increase energy efficiency.

Earlier this month, Vilsack announced a series of initiatives to help farmers and rural small businesses implement renewable energy systems and become more energy efficient. The REAP program will now make funding available for flexible fuel pumps, sometimes referred to as "blender pumps." This is expected to encourage fuel station owners to invest the capital necessary to give American motorists the option of selecting the blend of renewable fuel that meets their needs. The Obama administration has set a goal of installing 10,000 flexible fuel pumps nationwide within five years.

"The Obama Administration is working to transform the United States into a global clean energy leader because renewable energy created from a wide variety of biomass here in Minnesota and across the nation will create a new generation of jobs, reduce dependence on foreign oil and enhance national security," Vilsack said.

USDA Rural Development will meet with elected tribal officials in the upcoming months to discuss the impact of the changes on tribal governments, communities and individuals. USDA will also host a series of informational meetings to explain the rule changes. Workshops have been scheduled around the country.