U.S. Agriculture Secretary Mike Johanns visited Sioux Center today (Tuesday) where he handed out millions of dollars in grants for renewable energy.

Johanns spoke at the Siouxland Energy and Livestock Cooperative — the second ethanol plant to open in Iowa. He says the challenge is to increase the production and use of renewable energy across the country to make renewable energy economically viable. Johanns announced that 12 recipients in Iowa, Kansas and Oregon will receive more than $9 million in loan guarantees and grants to fund renewable energy and energy efficiency projects. Johanns says the grants will help with the goal of increasing the used of renewable energy.

Johanns says renewable energy can fill the gap in U-S energy needs. According to Johanns, we face the dilemma of an ever-increasing need for energy and an ever-decreasing supply of fossil fuels. Johanns says renewable fuel production must increase to maintain its current share of the energy market with an ever-increasing demand for energy.

Siouxland Energy general manager Bernie Punt says the grants are important to the industry. Punt says his company is dependent on the government to help make markets for their products as he says “big oil” is not friendly to them.

Eight Iowa companies will receive some $6 million in federal funds. They include Amana Farms in Iowa County; Amaizing Energy in Denison; C.K. Processing in Muscatine; Green Prairie Energy in Jefferson; Northeast Iowa Coop in Clermont; North Central Cooperative in Clarion; Synhorst Livestock and Grain in Marion County and Tri-City Energy in Keokuk.