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Udall: USDA Support for Job-Creating Biomass Development Underscores Need for Long-Term, Bipartisan Farm Bill

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Mark Udall, a strong supporter of biomass energy, congratulated Colorado State University on receiving a $10 million competitive U.S. Department of Agriculture grant to support better ways to strengthen forest health, create jobs and generate energy using beetle-killed timber. The competitive grant, announced today by Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, also underscores the need for the U.S. House of Representatives to stop playing games with the Farm Bill, which helps create jobs and reduce our deficit. Udall urged his colleagues to quickly conference the bill and bring a bipartisan plan for a vote.

The competitive grant, issued to CSU and the Bioenergy Alliance Network of the Rockies, is funded through the Department of Agriculture's Agriculture and Food Research Initiative. The initiative is funded through the Farm Bill.

"Biomass energy is creating jobs and helping reduce wildfire risks throughout Colorado's national forests. This competitive grant underscores how innovation is helping Colorado win the global economic race and confront modern mega-fires," Udall said. "However, this competitive grant also highlights the ongoing man-made threat of the U.S. House of Representatives' reckless obstruction of a long-term Farm Bill. There are too many jobs at stake -- in the biomass sector, agriculture and beyond -- for our nation to be left without a job-creating Farm Bill. I am calling on the House to abandon its irresponsible, partisan gambit and support a job creating and deficit reducing Farm Bill."

"Infestations of pine and spruce bark beetles have impacted over 42 million acres of U.S. forests since 1996, and a changing climate threatens to expand the threat from bark beetle on our forest lands," Vilsack said. "As we take steps to fight the bark beetle, this innovative research will help take the biomass that results from bark beetle infestation and create clean, renewable energy that holds potential for job creation and promises a cleaner future for America. This is yet another reminder of the critical investments provided by the Farm Bill for agricultural research, and I urge Congress to achieve passage of a new, long term Food, Farm and Jobs Bill as soon as possible."

Udall has been the leading voice in the U.S. Senate for finding innovative, job-creating ways to improve forest health and reduce wildfire risks. Earlier this month, Udall led a bipartisan effort to press the U.S. Department of Agriculture to partner with the timber industry to reduce wildfire risks in fire-prone areas, create jobs and improve community safety throughout the Rocky Mountain West.

Udall, who serves on the U.S. Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, has been a strong supporter of the public-private partnerships the U.S. Forest Service has used to improve forest health, including biomass projects, like the one Xcel Energy is pursuing in Colorado. Udall also has heralded the efforts of private companies, like Montrose Forest Products, that are creating jobs by turning beetle-killed trees and other forest products into commercial lumber. As part of his ongoing, state-wide energy tour, Udall recently visited an innovative biomass plant in Gypsum that is creating jobs and renewable energy while reducing wildfire risk.

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