Rationale for the Sun Grant Initiative

Canola farmBiobased products hold the promise of enhancing America's energy security, bringing greater diversity and stability to American agriculture, and promoting opportunities for economic development in rural areas. Because of current global events and economic instability, the demand is growing rapidly for domestic sources of energy and biobased products.

American consumers have felt the pinch of high energy costs. American farmers have been experiencing economic hardships as well, resulting in a devastating exodus to urban centers. Viable economic alternatives and diversity are needed in agriculture to bolster the Nation's independent farm families.

Agriculture can reduce America's reliance on imported fossil fuels and petroleum-based products by producing feedstock for a biobased shift to production of . . .

  • Fuels like ethanol and biodiesel
  • Electrical power
  • Lubricants
  • Plastics
  • Solvents
  • Adhesives
  • Pharmaceuticals
  • Cosmetics
  • Building materials
  • Numerous other biobased products.

The Sun Grant Mission              

The mission of the Sun Grant Initiative is to Canola field

  • Enhance national energy security through development, distribution and implementation of biobased energy technologies,
  • Promote diversification in and the environmental sustainability of, agricultural production in the United States through biobased energy and products technologies;
  • Promote economic diversification in rural areas of the nited States through biobased energy and product technologies; and
  • Enhance the efficiency of bioenergy and biomass research and development programs through improved coordination and collaboration between the Department of Agriculture, the Department of Energy, and the land-grant colleges and universities.

Motivations and Benefits

  • Enhance national energy security through development, distribution and implementation of biobased energy technologies;
  • Promote biobased diversification and environmental sustainability of America's agriculture;
  • Promote opportunities for biobased economic diversification in rural communities. Agriculture can contribute greatly by producing feedstocks for production of fuels, electrical power, lubricants, plastics, solvents, pharmaceuticals, cosmetics, building materials, and numerous other biobased products. This biobased shift would reduce our reliance on petroleum-based products. Motivation for Transition to a Biobased Economy
  • National Energy Security - Biobased fuels that can be produced within the United States will decrease our dependence on foreign sources of petroleum.
  • Economic Development - New industries will be created in the production, processing, and manufacturing of biobased products.
  • Environmental Quality Preservation - Use of biofuels will reduce greenhouse gas production.
  • Science and Technology are Ready! - Recent advances in molecular biology, genomics, and nanobiotechnology provide the tools for significant advances for a transition to a biobased economy.

Who Benefits?

  • Independent Farmers - Diversification of crops needed for growing fuels in the USA;
  • Rural Communities - Economic diversification based on new markets for biomass;
  • The Public at Large - Energy security through more US-produced fuels.


A network of five land-grant universities serve as regional Sun Grant centers: South Dakota State University, Oregon State University, Oklahoma State University, the University of Tennessee - Knoxville, and Cornell University. Oregon State University is the Western Regional Center of the Sun Grant Initiative.

The Sun Grant Initiative will create university-based research, extension and educational programs for biobased energy technologies. Much of the initiative's focus is on generating new and innovative ideas. Accordingly, three-fourths of the Initiative's funding is earmarked for competitive grants.

The Sun Grant Initiative will enlist the resources of the land-grant universities. Partnerships with private sector entities, foundations, other educational institutions, local, state and federal governments and other organizations will be essential.


A new era is dawning for research, rural development and land-grant service, and it holds great potential for the universities and rural economies of the United States.

The founding principles of the Sun Grant Initiative are to develop biobased products, many of them with industrial applications, and to stimulate renewed economic activity, particularly in rural areas, through renewable energy and new biobased, non-food industries.

Authorization and funding this nationwide biobased energy research program has provided momentum. Now is the time to consider the impacts and benefits this landmark initiative holds for your region and to identify roles that your organization can have in this important effort.