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Posted on  

December 19, 2001

Ag Secretary Reflects on First Year

By RENEE RUBLE, Associated Press Writer

BLOOMINGTON, Minn. (AP) - U.S. Agriculture Secretary Ann Veneman announced more than $260 million in grants and loans for bioenergy production and rural community development in 24 states and also reflected on her first year in office during a speech to farmers.

The past year has been challenging for the USDA, with both the threat of foot-and-mouth disease and bioterrorism, but it has also been productive, Veneman told those attending a Minnesota Agri-Growth Council conference Monday.

Food and livestock have become safer, emergency funds are distributed faster and tax relief is better, Veneman said.

``We're continuing to work hard to break down barriers that hurt our producers,'' she said.

She also said the government is continuing to promote renewable energy resources, such as ethanol fuel, which is corn-based, and methane, from manure. The $260 million in grants and loans are meant to promote renewable fuel sources as well as rural development.

Illinois will receive the largest share, $103.7 million, followed by Minnesota, $22.6 million; Georgia, $21.6 million; Iowa, $15.2 million; Colorado, $13.2 million; Texas, $12 million; and Florida and Missouri, both $11.4 million. Oklahoma, South Dakota, South Carolina, Kentucky and Louisiana will each receive more than $5 million.

In Iowa, part of the money will go into construction of an ethanol fuel plant, but the largest chunk, $13.5 million, will be a guaranteed loan to help Eastern Iowa Light & Power Cooperative extend electric service to 1,200 new customers.

In Minnesota, about half of the money will be in a similar loan to the Minnesota Valley Electric Cooperative.

The grants and loans are a chance for agriculture to help solve energy problems, Veneman said. She noted that California's energy problems over the past year had turned a spotlight on the need for renewable energy sources.

 

 

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