Monday, July 25, 2016

USDA Seeks Applications for Funding to Develop Advanced Biofuels and Plant-Based Products

WASHINGTON, July 25, 2016 – Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack today announced that the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) is seeking applications for funding to help support the development of advanced biofuels, renewable chemicals and biobased products.

"The bioeconomy is a catalyst for economic development in rural America, creating new jobs and providing new markets for farmers and ranchers," Vilsack said. "Investing in the businesses and technologies that support the production of biofuels and biobased products is not only good for farm incomes. The whole economy benefits from a more balanced, diversified and consumer-friendly energy portfolio, less dependence on foreign oil and reduced carbon emissions."

Funding is being provided through the Biorefinery, Renewable Chemical and Biobased Product Manufacturing Assistance Program, formerly known as the Biorefinery Assistance Program.

Congress established the program in 2008 to encourage the development of biofuels that use renewable feedstocks. The 2014 Farm Bill expanded the program to include renewable chemicals and biobased product manufacturing. The program now provides loan guarantees of up to $250 million to develop, construct and retrofit commercial-scale biorefineries and to develop renewable chemicals and biobased product manufacturing facilities.

USDA has provided $844 million in loan commitments to 10 businesses in the Biorefinery, Renewable Chemical and Biobased Product Manufacturing Assistance Program since the start of the Obama administration. Companies receiving these commitments are projected to produce 159 million gallons of advanced biofuels.
In 2011, under this program, USDA provided Sapphire Energy a $54.5 million loan guarantee to build a refined algal oil commercial facility. Sapphire's "Green Crude Farm" in Columbus, N.M., is an example of how USDA funding and partnerships with the private sector are helping to support the development of biorefineries.

The plant opened in May 2012 and is producing renewable algal oil that can be further refined to replace petroleum-derived diesel and jet fuel. According to the company, more than 600 jobs were created during the first phase of construction at the facility and 30 full-time employees currently operate the plant. After Sapphire received additional equity from private investors, it repaid the remaining balance on its USDA-backed loan in 2013.

USDA is helping to develop the bioeconomy, which has the potential to spur unprecedented growth in the rural economy by creating opportunities for the production, distribution and sale of biobased products and fuels. For example, USDA has partnered with the U.S. Department of Energy and the Navy to create advanced drop-in biofuels that will power both the Department of Defense and private-sector transportation throughout America. Over the course of this Administration, USDA has invested $332 million to accelerate research on renewable energy ranging from genomic research on bioenergy feedstock crops, to development of biofuel conversion processes and cost/benefit estimates of renewable energy production. For more information on how renewable energy factors into USDA's work to reduce greenhouse gases, visit the latest chapter of USDA's Medium entry, How Food and Forestry Are Adapting to a Changing Climate.

The Department has also taken steps to support biobased product manufacturing that promises to create new jobs across rural America – including adding new categories of qualified biobased products for Federal procurement and establishing reporting by Federal contractors of biobased product purchases. The more than 2,200 products that have received certification to display the USDA Certified Biobased Product label are creating and increasing consumer and commercial awareness about a material's biobased content as one measure of its environmental footprint. A 2015 USDA study of the bioeconomy found that the biobased products industry generates $369 billion and 4 million jobs each year for our economy. Biobased products industries directly employ approximately 1.5 million people, while an additional 2.5 million jobs are supported in other sectors.

For this announcement, USDA will seek applications in two cycles. Applications for the first funding cycle are due October 3, 2016. Applications for the second cycle are due April 3, 2017. For more information, see page 48377 of the July 25, 2016, Federal Register. Application materials can be found on USDA's Rural Development website.

In October 2015, Rural Development implemented a redesigned two-phase application process. This new process helps the Agency identify the projects that have made the most progress in the development stage and have the greatest capacity for implementation and loan closing. The first two application cycles under the new process yielded complete applications from projects producing biogas, biodiesel, cellulosic ethanol, biobased lubricants and oils, lignin cake and syrup, and fertilizers.

Eligible borrowers include individuals, corporations, federally-recognized tribes, units of state or local government, farm cooperatives and co-op organizations, associations of agricultural producers, national laboratories, institutions of higher education, rural electric cooperatives, public power entities – or a consortium of any of these borrower types. Entities that receive program financing must provide at least 20 percent of the funding for eligible project costs.

Since 2009, USDA Rural Development (@USDARD) has invested $11 billion to start or expand 103,000 rural businesses; helped 1.1 million rural residents buy homes; funded nearly 7,000 community facilities such as schools, public safety and health care facilities; financed 185,000 miles of electric transmission and distribution lines; and helped bring high-speed Internet access to nearly 6 million rural residents and businesses. For more information, visit

Friday, April 29, 2016

USDA Unveils New 'Urban Agriculture Toolkit' for Urban Farmers and Agri-business Entrepreneurs

Online Resource Draws on USDA's and Partners' Experience with Launching and Sustaining Urban Agriculture Operations Points Producers to Helpful Financial and Technical Resources
WASHINGTON, April 29, 2016 – Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack today unveiled the USDA Urban Agriculture Toolkit, a new resource created by USDA's Know Your Farmer team to help entrepreneurs and community leaders successfully create jobs and increase access to healthy food through urban agriculture. From neighborhood gardens grown on repurposed lots, to innovative mobile markets and intensive hydroponic and aquaculture operations, urban food production is rapidly growing into a mature business sector in cities across the country.

"Urban agriculture helps strengthen the health and social fabric of communities while creating economic opportunities for farmers and neighborhoods," Vilsack said. "USDA's Urban Agriculture Toolkit compiles guidance from our Know Your Farmer team and many private partners into one comprehensive resource to help small-scale producers manage all aspects of their business. From protecting soil health to marketing to schools and grocery store chains, USDA has tools to meet the needs of this new breed of innovative urban farmer and small business owner."

Industry estimates show U.S. local food sales totaled at least $12 billion in 2014, up from $5 billion in 2008, and experts anticipate that value to hit $20 billion by 2019. The numbers also show that these opportunities are helping to drive job growth in agriculture, increase entrepreneurship and expand food access and choice.

USDA's Toolkit is an electronic document that helps urban and small farms navigate more than 70 helpful resources, including technical assistance and financing opportunities. It focuses on some of the most pressing challenges confronting urban producers such as land access, soil quality, water resources, capital and financing, infrastructure, market development, production strategies, and applying for federal, state or private foundation grants. University extension service partners in Chicago and Indianapolis helped develop cost estimates for starting urban farms and the toolkit includes information on best practices and check lists for start-ups and early-stage producers planning outdoor or indoor operations.

Some of the USDA resources featured in the Toolkit include:
  • Natural Resources Conservation Service technical and financial assistance for drip irrigation and seasonal high tunnels to extend the growing season.
  • Farm Services Agency microloans that provide up to $50,000 in financing for equipment, working capital or other expenses.
  • Food and Nutrition Service assistance to help urban farmers become authorized to accept SNAP, WIC and Senior Farmers Market Nutrition Program benefit cards.
  • Agricultural Marketing Service Farmers Market Promotion Program grants that support direct-to-consumer marketing activities in cities, and Local Food Promotion Program grants that support food hubs, farm-to-retail, and related projects.
  • National Institute of Food and Agriculture's Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education (SARE) program support for field trials in urban settings and urban farm planning and marketing guides.
Vilsack made the announcement today during an event opening a new school community garden at Frederick Douglass High School in Baltimore. The idea for the Toolkit was originally conceived at a USDA Urban Agriculture roundtable held nearby in Baltimore last spring. A key result of that meeting was the creation of USDA's Urban Agriculture Working Group (UAWG) that has assembled an inventory of existing department resources and worked to make them more readily accessible. The UAWG continues to actively engage urban producers around the country to identify evolving needs and support their success as a positive socioeconomic force in their communities.

Several Baltimore organizations in the vanguard of urban agriculture have developed resources that are included in the Toolkit as models for other communities like the City Farm Alliance's Urban Agriculture How-To Guide, the Community Law Center's Urban Agriculture Law Project Manual and the Green Pattern Book that helps local leaders map and identify productive new uses for vacant land.

During the event, Vilsack also highlighted expansion of a partnership between USDA and the Corporation for National and Community Service, the federal agency that administers AmeriCorps, increasing the number of opportunities for young people in Baltimore to serve as AmeriCorps VISTA Summer Associates, earning valuable professional and life experience while serving their community. These AmeriCorps members will serve with the Maryland Out of School Time (MOST) Network to provide summer opportunities for Baltimore City residents. They will join the more than 1,400 AmeriCorps members currently serving institutions and organizations throughout the city, including Frederick Douglass High School.

The Urban Agriculture Toolkit and the UAWG are part of USDA's Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food Initiative (KYF2) supporting the Obama Administration's work to strengthen economic bonds between rural and urban areas. Launched in 2009, KYF2 breaks down silos and takes stock of USDA programs that support the growing demand for local and regional food systems.

Visit the KYF2 website at to find local and regional food system resources in your community. Learn more about the $1 billion USDA has invested in 40,000 projects to develop local market opportunities at as USDA celebrates Know your Farmer Month in April.

Thursday, February 25, 2016

#ELECTION2016! Can We Just Get a Do Over? Obviously Something is Broken

I don't care where you stand on issues, or who your candidate is. I imagine there are times we have all sat watching this primary cycle and just shaken our heads in disbelief.

I admit it! I absolutely have my candidate! 

I don't fall in the camp of those who don't see an answer in any of the selections. But, and that's a BIG but. And I love big buts and I cannot lie. Many of my fellow citizens feel completely without representation. And that's a big problem.

Even those who have a champion in this fight seem to feel the process is inherently flawed.

I would LOVE for my candidate to get elected and change the country "for the better!" But is that likely to even happen this time around? No matter who we get in the White House... it's doubtful.  

We have been moving in this direction for years and frankly, this circus was predictable. Given the extreme unpopularity of George W. Bush and the fact that name recognition is most definitely a major factor in sinking his brother Jeb's candidacy, we need look no further back than the Bush era tactics for the seeds of our current crop of crap. His was the culmination of arrogance which saw a complete disregard for the will of so many American people. And his administration was the center of corrupt ineptitude. Hell, even the republican voters know that. They might not admit it openly. But their treatment of Jeb Bush screams it loudly.   

I know we can go even further back, and find examples of the partisan schism in our society, where we have become so polarized we have created two distinctly different societies at war with each other. We long ago lost common ground where a single president or party could expect some sort of respect or support from those on "the other side."

It was only recently that nearly half of our fellow citizens would always feel disenfranchised and excluded from any choice in the public sphere. Now...those two halves have themselves, not only split, but splintered, which was an obvious outcome.

We will, in the inevitable outcome of this election cycle, install a weakened leader. The infighting of each party, and the struggle between them will ensure we continue our slip into political decay.

The Democratic Party, by maintaining the superdelegate system has guaranteed the alienation of nearly an entire generation which has come out in massive numbers to support the "grass roots candidate" Bernie Sanders. 

The DNC has taken steps to defeat
any possible candidate for change, in favor of establishment candidates who don't have to compete on a level playing field. They have guaranteed control of their party by their corporate sponsors and party insiders in opposition to the will of the people, blatantly so, without remorse or compromise. Even if Sanders manages to pull out a victory, it would be obvious the cards of any true policy changes would be stacked against him.

The Sanders supporters, likewise, will brook no interference in the master plan of redefining the party, the process and the potential for social revolution. They are entrenched.

The GOP? 

I don't have to explain it to anyone. Even though people see the GOP circus from different seats. They all see the circus. And unfortunately it's as if the clowns and animals have all gone insane and are turning on the audience. There is a massacre in the works, a trampling, a trouncing of the party and the country. This is inevitable.

Any way you look at it we have created a shit storm. And we're all caught in it.

What can be done? This answer, unfortunately will need to play out over a long period of time. Americans don't like that.

Of course, what WILL be done is one candidate will win the primaries on each side, then turn his or her message to their broader target audience. They will repaint themselves as the great healer. They will espouse their plan to repair the divisiveness. Bring "our great nation" back together...that sort of thing.

But, what will really happen will most likely be more ineffective government focused on squabbling and self interest. When people feel they are out of control things get, well, out of control. Unfortunately it isn't just a feeling, it's fact.

Either we will have the GOP corporate sponsors, or we will have the DNC corporate sponsors. That is how our government will "work."

Those who have been predicting a police state to control the masses on behalf of the corporate overlords will have a field day. And hell, they might be right. But more likely than that, as corporations are want to do...they will try and SELL US SOMETHING! They will sell the "idea" that things are working. That is their nature. And we...we will buy it. 

Why? Because we are consumers. We let them buy and sell everything, including us and the future of our country. At least that is how it has been for the longest time. Generation after generation we have grown to worship the transaction.  

Speaking of generations. That Millennial generation, what will they be doing?  What they have been all along I assume. They will watch. Hopefully they will continue to act.

If we're lucky their generation will learn more than they will be taught. Because, as of late, the teaching skills of our nation have been somewhat lacking.

Saturday, February 13, 2016

Scalia Dies! McConnell Guarantees Gridlock! Another in a Long Line of Crazy Stupid GOP Moves!

This is one of the craziest, circus like election cycles that most of us can remember. Predicting the outcome with so many variables of nutty and nice is impossible.

With the passing of Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia the outcomes at stake have become more obvious and in your face to even the lesser observant voters. 

With social media as a relatively new player in the election process, voters can be informed of news and opinions, including those of their friends and fellow voters, and of party elites and power players, instantaneously. 

As a result, the prognosticating and predicting of outcomes is already flying so soon after Scalia's death.

Let me, for my part, begin by expressing my condolences to those hurt by Scalia's passing. Though not mine, he was a champion. This must be conceded. 

As it goes with the fall of champions, followers often find themselves in disarray. This is obviously and understandably the case with the GOP.

With the farce of what has so far been the GOP primary it would be hard to imagine it could get much worse, so quickly. That is, until Scalia died.

The loss of this GOP champion is going to crank up the crazy energy even higher than it has been.

Not even a day has passed since the world learned of Scalia's death and already the Republicans are making unwise moves, further enhancing the demise of a sick and diseased party. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia should not be replaced until after the presidential election.

"Today our country lost an unwavering champion of a timeless document that unites each of us as Americans.
"Justice Scalia's fidelity to the Constitution was rivaled only by the love of his family: his wife Maureen his nine children, and his many grandchildren. Through the sheer force of his intellect and his legendary wit, this giant of American jurisprudence almost singlehandedly revived an approach to constitutional interpretation that prioritized the text and original meaning‎ of the Constitution.
"Elaine and I send our deepest condolences to the entire Scalia family.
"The American people‎ should have a voice in the selection of their next Supreme Court Justice. Therefore, this vacancy should not be filled until we have a new President.”

For their part, Democrats have rushed in, already calling on the Senate to vote on a nominee to replace Scalia.
Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) said waiting until next year to confirm a new justice would be "Unprecedented."
By confirming the GOP's intent to be perform the role of constant obstructionists, McConnell has made another crazy stupid miscalculation in strategy. Given the flux and capacity for change in this cycle the outcome can't be fully measured yet. But the statement and sentiment could not be more inept. 
The DNC is undergoing a fight for its soul. Whether one follows Hillary Clinton or Bernie Sanders, the struggle for control of the heart of the DNC is on.

Many Sanders supporters, myself included, have questioned whether they could continue to support the DNC if Hillary Clinton is the nominee.

Many Hillary supporters are liable to think twice before showing up to vote for Sanders if he wins the primary.

The question of super-delegates, establishment interests vs grass roots candidates, revolutionary ideas are flying around in the dust of a virtual melee.

The only saving grace for the Democrats is the absolute chaos and ridiculousness of the GOP primary debacle. If the GOP pulls itself together offering up someone less distasteful and hated than Donald Trump, they might stand a chance in November.
The GOP could capitalize on the potential disarray in the DNC to find a middle ground within which they could woo middle ground voters.

Instead, McConnell, by touting the obvious, obstinate, obstructionist goals of the GOP has opened up the field for even more upset. The GOP candidates, those who might be in tight races against more centrist candidates in their respective home states have just been handed another potentially losing issue. Of course, the base will be happy. But the swingers? They are in play like never before.

If McConnell and the GOP even seemed halfway constructive they would stand a better chance of winning over swing voters who, like the rest of us, are tired of ineffective government and looking for someone to blame. They will give us themselves to blame, gift wrapped.
The chances of creating yet another quagmire reflecting negatively on the GOP far outweigh the benefits of postponing the inevitable. In the event they do pull themselves together and manage to put someone electable on the ticket, they will still have to answer to even more questions of GOP stonewalling and mucking up the process, making a Democratic victory even that much more likely. This will, and rightfully so, cause them to lose both a seat on the court, and in the White House, not to mention the endangering of so many seats in Congress.

This is just another example of how the GOP has gone completely off the rails and lost touch with reality.
No self respecting, left leaning or centrist voter could dream of staying home for such an important election. And nobody is going to want to hand the keys to a bunch of clowns like the GOP. 

Friday, February 12, 2016

Will a Hillary Win Lead to a Revival of the American Socialist Party?

Hillary or Bernie?

The end result, whether Hillary Clinton or Bernie Sanders wins the Democratic nomination, is going to be that many voters in the US come to realize they are actually Socialists. 

They will stop buying the capitalist propaganda that socialism is any further from the original spirit of our Constitution than any other current construct. 

The opposite may also be true. Libertarians, stand to gain a great deal from the turmoil of this election cycle. 

But, it is my opinion they don't seem to understand modern economics, the current state of globalization or understand the process of amendments. 

Libertarians could, however, gain an influx of newly disenfranchised voters. 

Things are shaking up. 

I need to make it clear that, philosophically I prefer Libertarians. My beliefs are to Libertarians as socialism is to many Democrats. Great idea but it won't work.

As they appear today, libertarian ideas are like heaven is to Christians, I think. Great idea but we can't get there until we die. But the concept is paramount to protecting individual freedom, individual rights and reducing dependence on the government.

We just DON'T have a system now that is conducive to those ideas, nor can we let go of the horns or the bull of our creation will rip us to shreds.

My views on socialism are also admittedly idealistic and hopeful. And I would imagine the manifestation of American socialism would be unique, hopefully in a functional and positive way, incorporating all of our concepts of individual liberty. (These are definitely not protected well enough currently by any party. It would hopefully manifest itself, as well, in a synthesis of several existing concepts and be balanced by others. )

Socialism, in practice, has never had to deal with, nor been able to thrive without, the influence of a heavily subsidized corporate environment. By this I mean American taxpayers supporting American corporate interests through military action and other investments. I'm not saying socialism can't survive without US backing. It just never has. The aftereffects of World War 2 and Vietnam have, until recently, maintained a dynamic, the outcome of which does not allow for adequate testing of the viability of our socialist allies or enemies. Perhaps because it has never been given the chance due the capitalist elements in the US manipulating the socialist elements of the US to get tax dollars to fund the manipulation of world markets and governments. 

It's neo liberalism, neo con, neo crap.

The US has shown what can be done with a powerful, empirical strategy and we've created a globalized monster. So, as Libertarians would have us do, putting our rifles on our backs and going out to hunt deer and just saying NO to corporations is quaint, but just quaint. We can't live it. We could push to return as much of that idea as possible into the world, and in pushing that ideal would gain support from the inherent freedom loving aspects of every culture and brain. But we can't just go back to a time of anarchy. 

Corporations are the wave of the future. The reason I use the word corporation is simply that this is the current large scale, complex model for various groupings of peoples coming together to accomplish lofty goals. The military and government are also groupings of this kind. But the bottom line is the world is complex, organized and BIG. We can't deconstruct its complexity.

Of course there are geniuses who disagree with me, and have opposed gradualism or synthesis for decades, fighting for fast, reckless revolution with bombs and books and a string of failures. Bernie's revolution is the kind we do with a voting booth. And the kind of which Thomas Jefferson spoke so fondly.

If we initiate any rapid or drastic moves in a direction other than that set forth by our previous and current soft imperialism we could face Russia or China, or India, or all of the above filling the gaps we leave. Though an argument for another time, that would be a bad idea. (Although, currently Hillary Clinton is the most popular candidate among those Progressives who would maintain the basic status quo of globalization, Bernie Sanders would, more likely than not, defer to the current strategies, with the exception of implementing tax codes in favor of American workers, if for no other reason than he must pick his battles.) 

So, within this spectrum of modern organization, socialism is about the same as what we currently call capitalism in that it is as far removed from the original intent of the Constitution, but still viable and potentially legal. The current form of capitalism is, in fact, less legal by constitutional standards. So regardless of the "system" one chooses, it comes down to control with the vote. And we don't even have that anymore. (Capitalism in its current form represents a shifting of the power base which circumvents many of our individual God given rights and freedoms and subsists on the influx of and good will of the American people through corporate welfare. Corporations in the form in which they currently exist are in opposition to the original intent of limited charters. This is not directed at small business/free trade which can be a part of socialism more easily than the current manifestation of uber rich, predictably top heavy capitalism. )

Bernie is attempting to push the agenda of campaign finance reform. That is my main concern. Has been. Will be.

If we get more control over the vote we control more of our country again. THAT, is why I am hinging my support of Hillary on the non use of Superdelegates to win her place. 

Although I imagine no political party will, as no party has yet to, fulfill all of my wants as to ideas and ideals and strategy, I do see more potential in a socialist agenda than in anything more or less extreme. Socialism, as it is currently practiced, is in fact so similar to what we have now that its benefits can be seen daily.

Unfortunately those benefits are seen in a pseudo capitalist environment where socialist ideas are used to prop up the long failed ideas of capitalism. The very concept that workers could own part of a plant, or receive dividends and a part of the profits of a corporation is a market response in attempt to mimic socialist ideas. There are so many elements of socialism surrounding our daily lives that there are too many to source for examples. Just think about anything the government, local or federal, does that we can't live without.  Think about the vast majority of securities offered to workers, and through monitoring business activity. Laws that protect one corporation from the predatory practices of another are also an example.

Even though Republicans push for privatization of this and that, their policy ideas are so intertwined with the benefits of socialism, in the manner that it props up their failures, that they no longer recognize the difference. They represent interests. The Democrats represent interests. Bernie Sanders represents interests. His interests, though seemingly less pragmatic, are also ideals. I know Hillary and some of the Republican candidates represent ideals. But within the current party system there is too much placating of the lobbyists and big money, from both sides.

The big question if Hillary Clinton wins the nomination is going to be, given that such a large number of voters from all demographics have jumped on board for Bernie, will the Democratic party adapt and somehow effectively court these people. Or, will there be business as usual leading to the potential exodus of most young people, and many older, to some new version of an American Socialist Party?

Better yet, if Bernie wins, how will the establishment react?


Monday, February 8, 2016

Introducing the New and Improved Sunvarmint Ethereal Content Hub! *With Amazing ALL-NEW Etherealicity Compound Z*

My Uncle Freddy used to tell us stories about my long lost older brother, Tom. I never met Tom. I wondered at times if he was just made up. But who cares, right?

According to Uncle Freddy, Tom was sitting by the river fishing for cats one day when he saw the strangest thing. A rabbit came running by holding a stopwatch. 

This rabbit was mumbling something to himself about having committed some kind of murder or something, and some other crazy stuff which seemed to change each time Uncle Freddy told the story. 

Anyway, Tom decided he needed to follow this crazy rabbit to see what was what. He did, and he slipped in the mud and fell into a hole. All kinds of crazy stuff happened to Tom down in that hole. Some of it didn't make any sense at all. And sometimes just before Uncle Freddy would go to sleep on account of finishing his bottle of Jim Beam, the stories would kind of get really strange. Tom sometimes dressed like a lady, talked to frogs and fish and any manner of junk. 

Anyway. Those stories inspired me to see the world more like Tom did. And to look for the tiny, escapie kinds of things, that take us into little places and holes where we can all find talking frogs and stuff. It's all there. 

Follow this guide to find the rabbit holes and just kind of mess around till you feel bored. Then do whatever you want to. I don't care. If I see you there I guess we can wave at each other or something. Them holes is always popping up somewhere or another. So I made this one spot where you can start.

Click here to begin: