Groups offer support for renewable energy programs in new farm bill

By Sara Wyant

© Copyright Agri-Pulse Communications, Inc.

WASHINGTON, April 5, 2012 - More than 100 organizations, representing a broad range of renewable energy, farm, ranch, commodity, environmental, and other groups sent a letter to leadership of the U.S. House of Representatives and Senate Agriculture Committees asking for reauthorization and funding of energy title programs from the farm bill that revitalize rural America and improve both national security and the environment.

These energy programs are part of 37 different programs that have no mandatory funding baseline when the 2008 Farm Bill expires in September of 2012, according to the Congressional Research Service. If policymakers want to continue these programs in the next farm bill, they will need to pay for the programs with other offsets. Depending on the approach used to estimate a cost to extend the 37 programs for five years, $9 billion or $10 billion of offsets from other sources may be needed.

 Together we can feed the Bees

The 37 provisions without baseline beyond FY2012 are spread among 12 of the 2008 farm bill's

15 titles. The title with the most such provisions is the energy title (8), followed by conservation

(5), nutrition (5), and horticulture and organic agriculture (5). Just three provisions-the agricultural disaster assistance program, the Wetlands Reserve Program, and the Biomass Crop

Assistance Program, each with uncertainty about its future cost-account for nearly 75% of the

$9 billion or $10 billion total, notes CRS in their report, “Previewing the Next Farm Bill: Unfunded and Early-Expiring Provisions

The groups signing the letter do not detail where the funding should come from in other parts of the 2012 farm bill.

“Renewable energy is a tremendous opportunity to help our rural communities thrive by providing them with additional sources of income,” said NFU President Roger Johnson. “These programs are vital not only to rural America, but they also provide us with a clean, homegrown fuel that helps America become more energy independent, which is critical for national security. These programs need our support.”

The letter states that farm bill energy programs like the Rural Energy for America Program (REAP), Biomass Crop Assistance Program (BCAP), Biorefinery Assistance Program (BAP) and Biobased Markets Program (Biopreferred) “strongly support American agriculture and ensure broad public benefits to the entire country,” helping rural communities create or save thousands of direct and indirect jobs. According to USDA, REAP has created or saved approximately 21,688 jobs since 2003.

“These programs provide rural Americans with a level of certainty for their investments in renewable energy, so they can be guaranteed at least some return,” said Johnson. “We urge members of Congress to support these farm bill energy title programs that provide tremendous benefits for all Americans.

Sens. Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, Kent Conrad, D-N.D., Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., and Al Franken, D-Minn., recently introduced energy title legislation providing more $1.2 billion in funding over the next five years for these programs. 


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