Agriculture Secretary Vilsack Visits Madison Company to Promote Job-Creating Bioeconomy

Press Release

By:  Thomas Vilsack
Date: April 18, 2012
Location: Madison, WI

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack today toured a Midwest facility that is working to replace packaging materials previously produced from fossil fuel with materials made entirely from plant-based feedstocks. This is an example of how manufacturing products from biobased materials is creating jobs across the country and--coupled with a broader Obama administration effort to promote an "all-of-the-above" energy strategy"--is reducing our reliance on foreign oil. Vilsack visited Virent, Inc. and viewed the technology that will help produce beverage bottles made entirely from plant-based materials.

"Promoting production of biofuels and embracing biobased products have helped reduce dependence on foreign oil to less than 50 percent and will continue to help reduce our reliance for years to come," said Vilsack. "We should rely on innovative companies and the productivity of American farmers and ranchers to produce our household items and power our cars and trucks -- not foreign oil. If we are able to produce more energy here at home and build a manufacturing economy producing biobased goods, we'll generate middle-class jobs and strengthen our economy in the long run."

In 2007 USDA provided $2 million in funding to Virent through the Biomass Research and Development Initiative (BRDI) for research on high-value chemical production from biodiesel-derived glycerol. The BRDI grant was one of Virent's earliest efforts to manufacture biobased chemicals. The grant helped launch Virent's biochemicals program, over time leading to their current efforts to commercialize the production of paraxylene for 100% biobased, recyclable bottles in partnership with the Coca-Cola Company.

Vilsack said America needs and is developing a reliable, sustainable, fuel supply.

"USDA and the Obama administration are working with private industry to strengthen and transition to a bioeconomy, with firms like Virent promoting biobased products, and with the bioenergy sector pursuing an 'all-of-the-above' energy strategy to promote American-produced renewable energy coupled with oil production," Vilsack said. "Today, the development of both biofuels and bioproducts, using not just corn, but corn stover, soybeans, switchgrass, wood, camelina, energy cane, municipal solid waste, yellow oils, algae, and a host of other non-food feedstocks growing across the country are reducing our reliance on foreign oil."

Creating new markets for the nation's agricultural products through biobased manufacturing is one of the many steps the Administration has taken over the past three years to strengthen the rural economy. Since August 2011, the White House Rural Council has supported a broad spectrum of rural initiatives including a Presidential Memorandum to create jobs in rural America through biobased and sustainable product procurement, a $350 million commitment in SBA funding to rural small businesses over the next 5 years, launching a series of conferences to connect investors with rural start-ups, creating capital marketing teams to pitch federal funding opportunities to private investors interested in making rural and making job search information available at 2,800 local USDA offices nationwide.

Since taking office, President Obama's Administration has taken historic steps to improve the lives of rural Americans, put people back to work and build thriving economies in rural communities. From proposing the American Jobs Act to establishing the first-ever White House Rural Council -- chaired by Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack -- the President is committed to a smarter use of existing Federal resources to foster sustainable economic prosperity and ensure the government is a strong partner for businesses, entrepreneurs and working families in rural communities.