Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack has issued the following statement in response to the Environmental Protection Agency's decision to allow the use of fuel containing up to 15 percent ethanol in late-model cars and light trucks:

"Today's announcement from EPA is an important step toward making America more energy independent and creating much-needed jobs in rural America. The announcement will help get existing ethanol capacity into the market.

Increasing the use of ethanol in automobiles and light trucks not only provides biomass and biofuel producers with additional revenue enhancing opportunities, it will help us reach the Obama Administration's goal of increasing renewable fuels usage in the U.S. marketplace to 36 billion gallons by 2022.

Today's action by Administrator Jackson and the EPA provides assurance to farmers, ranchers and the renewable fuels industry that the government backs the use of home grown energy in our cars and trucks. At the same time, more work is needed and we hope EPA and the Department of Energy complete an evaluation of 2001-2006 models soon."

On Thursday, Oct. 21, Secretary Vilsack will discuss the progress USDA and other federal agencies are making toward achieving the 36 billion gallon biofuel production goal mandated by the Renewable Fuels Standard and new efforts by the Obama administration to bolster the industry and reduce U.S. dependence on foreign oil.

Other topics of the address will include ensuring that infrastructure is in place to ease the production and use of domestically produced renewable transportation fuel, as well as the administration's strategy to foster renewable energy nationwide