The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) budget is harder to interpret because much of its funding is mandated by the 2008 Farm Bill. Of the discretionary funding, the budget proposes near-level funding of $39 million for the Rural Energy for America Program, although it shifts most of the funds to grants, resulting in $34 million in grants and an estimated $12 million in loan guarantees (supported with $5 million in federal funds). The Farm Bill provides another $70 million, supporting an additional $36 million in grants and an estimated $73 million in loan guarantees. The budget proposes $17 million for the Biorefinery Assistance Program, enough to support $50 million in loan guarantees, while the Farm Bill provides $85 million for the Bioenergy for Advanced Biofuels program. Through the Commodity Credit Corporation, the budget provides $479 million for the Biomass Crop Assistance Program. The Farm Bill also provides $15 million for the Forest Biomass for Energy Program and $5 million for the Community Wood Energy Program, both programs of the U.S. Forest Service. In terms of research, the proposed FY 2011 budget provides $10 million for the establishment of five Regional Biofuels Feedstocks Research and Demonstration Centers, which will coordinate government research efforts to accelerate the development and deployment of dedicated energy feedstocks. The USDA budget also includes $34 million for a research initiative to develop cost-effective non-food feedstocks for biofuels. See pages 16, 30, 35, 56, 58, 96, 112, and 118 of the USDA Budget Summary and Annual Performance Plan for FY 2011 (PDF 1.8 MB). Download Adobe Reader.
But perhaps most significant is that the 2008 Farm Bill allows the USDA's Rural Utilities Service (RUS) to provide loans for energy-saving efforts, including energy efficiency and renewable energy projects. The budget for the RUS Electric Programs includes $4.1 billion in loans, although it's unclear how much of those loans may go to clean energy projects versus traditional transmission and distribution projects. The USDA also notes that funding for several of its business programs, including the Business and Industry Loan Guarantee Program and Value-Added Producer Grants, will be available for clean energy projects. In addition, the Homeownership Loan and Loan Guarantee programs will provide financing for more energy efficient homes. See pages 16 and 60-61 of the USDA Budget Summary document.