A mid-winter snow storm did not stop more than 200 participants from attending the 7th Annual Iowa Renewable Fuels Summit and Trade Show held January 30th in Des Moines.

During Under Secretary for Rural Development Dallas Tonsager’s presentation it was clear that everyone in attendance was extremely focused on helping identify ways the renewable fuels industry can continue to create economic opportunities in rural America. At the summit Mr. Tonsager also had the opportunity to hear Tom Buis with Growth Energy give a detailed overview of the ethanol industry and its many positive impacts throughout our country.

Renewable fuels play and important role in President Obama’s “all-of-the-above” energy strategy, which is designed to reduce America’s reliance on foreign oil. This plan is working. In fact, the U.S. cut net oil imports by 10 percent, or one million barrels a day, in 2012.

The Under Secretary said that as domestic oil production expands we will need to blend it with our domestically produced biofuels, whether cellulosic ethanol or drop in, biodiesel or aviation, and the sooner the better.

The Renewable Fuel Standard, with a goal to use at least 36 billion gallons of bio-based transportation fuels by 2022, lays the foundation for reducing imported petroleum, and encouraging the development and expansion of our nation’s renewable fuels sector.

Renewable fuels play an important role in helping build a stronger rural economy and USDA is ready to assist. USDA Rural Development has more than 40 funding programs to help improve the quality life and support economic development in rural America.

In the last four years, USDA Rural Development assisted 6,600 renewable energy projects and 25,000 rural businesses in their efforts to build a broad economy.

Collectively, there is strength in rural America. Under Secretary Tonsager noted that we have to pursue the challenges we are faced with and not back down, and we cannot let those challenges define who we are. We need to be forward looking and always pursuing ways to attract young adults and families to rural America.

It is important, said Tonsager, that we are not satisfied with our past successes. We need to be constantly looking for new economic opportunities. Creating viable projects is the key, projects that will work.  It is all right to take risks in searching for the right opportunities.

If you have a bio-based business idea for such things as plastics, chemicals, wood energy or any other type of green project, tell USDA about it.  Let’s see how together we can continue building opportunities in rural America.

To find your nearest USDA Rural Development office click here.  To find out about USDA’s energy programs click here.