Towards that goal, five USDA regional Biomass Research Centers will be established for the development of non food biomass feed stocks. Besides ramped up research, the centers “will also assist rural development officials in the development and construction of biorefineries. The lead personnel at the centers will draw on the expertise of the entire USDA team.”

  • The Northeast center will be located in Madison, Wisconsin, led by the Forest Service.
  • The Central East Center will be located in Lincoln, Nebraska, led by ARS.
  • The Southeast center – “a little more complicated because so much is going on there” -- will be located both by ARS in Boonesville, Arkansas; and Tifton, Georgia, and in Auburn, Alabama, led by the Forest Service.
  • The Western Center will be located in Maricopa, Arizona.
  • The Northwestern Center will be located in Pullman, Washington, led by ARS, and Corvallis, Oregon, led by the Forest Service.

The 2008 farm bill authorized investments to assist in the construction of new biorefineries. Vilsack said within 60 days the USDA would “announce funding under the current Biorefinery Assistance Program for the construction (to commence in 2011) of a biorefinery or bioenergy plant in each of the regions serviced by the regional centers.”

Vilsack acknowledged one biorefinery per region will hardly be enough. “We need a substantial number of biorefineries over the next 12 years.” Studies show the need ranging “anywhere from a couple hundred to as many as 500.”

Even at the low end, “that’s a substantial capital investment in rural communities, a lot of construction jobs, a lot of jobs making component parts for the facilities, a lot of jobs maintaining the facilities, a lot of opportunities for community colleges to develop courses to understand the (fuel-making) process.”