Trump signs 2018 Farm Bill

By Erin Voegele | December 20, 2018

On Dec. 20, President Trump signed the $867 billion 2018 Farm Bill into law. The bill, titled the Agricultural Improvement Act, or H.R. 2, reauthorizes several Energy Title programs, including the Rural Energy for America Program and the Biomass Crop Assistance Program.

Trump’s signing of the bill caps a nearly nine-month effort to enact the legislation. The House Agriculture Committee first released a draft of the legislation in April. The House initially passed its version of the bill on June 21, while the Senate passed its version of the legislation a week later, on June 28.

House and Senate ag committee leaders released the text of the 2018 Farm Bill conference report more than five months later, on Dec. 10. The Senate moved quickly and approved the conference report by a vote of 87 to 13 the following day, on Dec. 11. The House followed with its vote on Dec. 12, passing the conference report by a vote of 369 to 47

A copy of the conference report released on Dec. 10 indicates the bill includes reauthorizes several Energy Title programs, including the Biobased Markets Program, the Biorefinery Assistance Program, the Bioenergy Program for Advanced Biofuels, the Biodiesel Fuel Education Program, the Rural Energy for America Program, the Feedstock Flexibility Program, and the Biomass Crop Assistance Program. The Repowering Assistance Program is repealed.

The bill also establishes an Interagency Biogas Opportunities Task Force to coordinate policies and programs to accelerate biogas research and investment in biogas systems, and a new Carbon Utilization and Biogas Education Program to provide grants to eligible entities for educating the public and biogas producers about the benefits and opportunities biogas offers to rural businesses, communities and utilities.

In addition, the bill changes the name of the Community Wood Energy Program to the Community Wood Energy and Wood Innovation Program and relocates the program under the bill’s Forestry title.

On Dec. 11, following release of the conference report, the Agriculture Energy Coalition released a statement congratulating and thanking House and Senate leadership for bringing the Farm Bill to completion.

“We greatly appreciate the continuation of the jobs producing, innovative energy title’s suite of programs. We are particularly pleased that the Rural Energy for America Program, the Biorefinery Assistance program, the 'BioPreferred' program, and the Bioenergy Program for Advanced Biofuel were reauthorized and provided with critically important mandatory funding,” said the AgEC in its statement. “We are also thrilled renewable chemicals are now fully eligible to participate in the Biorefinery Assistance program along with other constructive changes the Coalition championed.”

The coalition, however, expressed disappointment that BCAP and the Biomass Research and Development Initiative were not properly funded by the bill. “Those gaps need to be fixed in the next Congress to help mitigate catastrophic wildfires while creating new uses for renewable raw materials,” the group said. “Work also needs to continue to ensure REAP receives a much-needed Reserve Fund for underserved technologies like distributed wind and biogas. REAP is also over-subscribed 3 to 1, and given the program’s expansion, the Coalition believes more funding in the future is warranted.

“As Congress and the Administration works to provide funding and implement the Farm Bill’s energy title programs, we encourage them to remember the important role these programs play in bolstering the American agriculture economy,” the AgEC continued. “Additionally, these programs help companies develop clean, renewable energy which will enable our agricultural and rural communities to address the ever-growing threat of climate change.”

Additional information, including a full copy of the conference report, is available on the House Committee on Agriculture’s website