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It’s money well spent, Mr. Vilsack said, because the projects will create jobs, reduce dependency on foreign oil and allow farmers to use land that isn’t as suitable to growing corn and soybeans.

Agriculture officials are planning to spend $5.7 million this year to enroll farmers in seven counties in Ohio and Pennsylvania. Cleveland-based Aloterra Energy will operate a biomass plant in northeast Ohio near Ashtabula to process the grass into small pellets that can be burned at power plants.

Two more projects are going to central and southwest Missouri. Farmers in those areas will feed into biomass conversion plants in Columbia and Aurora. MFA Oil Biomass LLC will operate both.

Another project in northwest Arkansas will include farmers in seven counties and a biomass plant in Paragould, which also will be operated by MFA Oil Biomass.

JAPAN

NRC: Spent-fuel pool didn’t go dry in quake

Early fears that all the water was gone from a spent-fuel pool at the stricken nuclear complex in Japan were unfounded, the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission said Wednesday.

Newly obtained video shows that the spent-fuel pool at Unit 4 at the Fukushima Dai-ichi complex probably did not go dry, as NRC Chairman Gregory Jaczko insisted in March, the NRC said.

Japanese officials had denied Mr. Jaczko’s claim, which was based on information from NRC staff and other experts who went to Japan after the March 11 earthquake and tsunami.

Bill Borchardt, the NRC’s executive director for operations, said U.S. officials welcomed the video evidence as “good news” and one indication that the meltdown at the Unit 4 of the Fukushima plant “may not have been as serious as was believed.”

WHITE HOUSE

Obama’s golf game with Boehner downplayed

The White House is trying to manage expectations about the president’s upcoming golf game against House Speaker John A. Boehner.

“I don’t think it’s about winning or losing,” White House spokesman Jay Carney said. “The president enjoys golf and plays it when he can, but I don’t think that he would say that he is an expert golfer. And I hear that the speaker of the House is quite good.”

After months of speculation, Mr. Obama and Mr. Boehner will play a round Saturday with Ohio Gov. John Kasich, a Republican, and Vice President Joseph R. Biden.

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