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October 24, 2016

USDA to invest in expanding wood energy markets

Up to $7 million in grants will be invested in projects designed to expand wood products and wood energy markets that support sustainable forest management, especially in areas with high wildfire risk in the US.

The grants will be made available in through the U.S. Forest Service’s Wood Innovations Program, as the USDA announced.

The proposals must be submitted until January 23rd and applicants are scheduled to be notified of the results in mid-April, with awards made in early July.

In 2017, the Wood Innovation Program will invest up to $7 million in projects designed to have a long-term impact on National Forests and other forest lands by leveraging the market for low-value wood.

Funding is available for a diverse range of activities, from facilitating the establishment of new building codes to support expanded use of wood materials to developing a cluster of wood energy projects in a geographic area. Funding may also support business planning and efforts to accelerate the manufacturing, market adoption and demonstration of innovative wood products, such as cross-laminated timber.

The RFP was announced Oct. 19, during the week President Obama has proclaimed National Forest Products Week. In his proclamation, Obama recognized USDA's work to promote the use of wood energy and wood products.

By allocating millions of dollars to help expand technologies that encourage the use of wood in innovative ways, we are also striving to improve forest health and generate rural jobs. And we are exploring ways to help forestland owners respond to climate change”, said President Barack Obama.

Promotion of wood products is one of the ten "building blocks" in USDA's Building Blocks for Climate Smart Agriculture and Forestry, the Department's framework for helping farmers, ranchers, and forestland owners respond to climate change. Through this initiative, USDA is committing to reducing greenhouse gas emissions and increasing carbon stored in forests and soils by over 120 million metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent per year by 2025. That amount is equivalent of taking 25 million cars off the road, or offsetting the emissions produced by powering nearly 11 million homes.

"Growing markets for wood products and wood energy create new uses for diseased wood that otherwise would be hazardous fuel in our nation's forests, where we are experiencing increasingly longer and more intense wildfire seasons. USDA has invested nearly $1 billion into 240 projects to uncover innovative new uses for wood, and our Tall Wood Building Prize Competition is proving that multi-story buildings made of wood can be a reality in major U.S. cities”, said Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack.

Since 2005, more than 240 grants have been awarded to small businesses, non-profits, Tribes, states, and local governments to improve forest health while creating jobs, renewable energy and healthy communities. Since 2013, this funding has also helped establish 22 Statewide Wood Energy Teams and six Statewide Wood Utilization Teams that collectively expand and support wood energy and wood products markets.

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