WASHINGTON — The availability of $181 million to develop commercial-scale biorefineries or retrofit existing facilities with appropriate technology to develop advanced biofuels was announced by Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture remains focused on carrying out its mission, despite a time of significant budget uncertainty. Vilsack’s announcement is one part of the department’s efforts to strengthen the rural economy.

“This financing will expand the number of commercial biorefineries in operation in the U.S. that are producing advanced biofuels from non-food sources,” he said. “USDA’s Biorefinery Assistance Program is yet another way USDA is helping to carry out the Obama administration’s ‘all-of-the-above’ energy strategy to develop every possible source of American-made energy.

“But the benefits go beyond reducing our dependence on foreign oil. These biorefineries are also creating lasting job opportunities in rural America and are boosting the rural economy, as well.”

The Biorefinery Assistance Program was created through the 2008 farm bill and is administered by USDA Rural Development. It provides loan guarantees to viable commercial-scale facilities to develop new and emerging technologies for advanced biofuels.

Eligible entities include Indian tribes, state or local governments, corporations, farmer cooperatives, agricultural producer associations, higher education institutions, rural electric co-ops, public power entities or consortiums of any of the above.