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Washington, March 25 – “If we don’t kill it now,” Rep. Jack Kingston (R-GA) warned USDA Under Secretary Jim Miller in a House hearing Thursday, “it will have its own lobbying group, it has a constituency growing.” Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-CT), Chair of the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Agriculture, chimed in, telling Miller the program’s cost has soared to “30 times more expensive than the original CBO [Congressional Budget Office] scoring for this program.”
Kington, the Subcommittee’s Ranking Republican, and DeLauro were talking about USDA’s Biomass Crop Assistance Program(BCAP) which provides incentive payments for delivering biomass for bioenergy production, which Kingston “from papermill country” says means “paying people to do what they did all along.” Miller responded that USDA has proposed significantly revised BCAP rules to ensure that future payments only apply to “additionality” and no longer create competition with other value-added uses such as for particleboard production. He pointed out as well that BCAP is part of an overall effort to encourage production of advanced biofuels. Finally, Miller invited Kingston to submit comments on the new BCAP rules which are still in a public comment period.
Kingston expressed surprise that USDA is defending BCAP when the program itself was created by Congress, not USDA. “The projected 10 year cost of this is $2.6 billion,” Kingston said. “We need to kill it.” Farm Service Agency (FSA) Administrator Jonathan Coppess responded that “This program has incredible potential . . . it is a new program and we have to learn what the statute says . . . I would be cautious about wanting to kill a program we haven’t even gotten implemented fully yet.”
Miller explained that it’s not up to USDA “to selectively determine which aspects of the 2008 Farm Bill or other legislation that we want to implement because we like it.” He said USDA is continuing with the BCAP program to carry out the intent of Congress “while fulfilling, I think, the real goal of Congress and that is to move us to the next step in terms of renewable energy production.”
Rep. Tom Latham (R-IA) commented that Miller’s stated reluctance to change the ’08 Farm Bill in the case of BCAP seemed to contradict his earlier support for re-writing the Farm Bill’s payment limitation provisions.
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