Senators file multiple anti-energy Farm Bill amendments

By Kris Bevill | June 15, 2012

The Senate began its floor debate of the Senate Agriculture Committee’s 2012 Farm Bill, formally titled the Agriculture Reform, Food and Jobs Act of 2012, on June 12 and proceeded to flood the legislation with amendments that would modify various components of the bill. Approximately 10 of those amendments relate to the Energy Title or renewable energy in general and must be defeated, said Lloyd Ritter, co-director of the Agriculture Energy Coalition. Among them, a proposal to defund all energy programs under the Farm Bill, an amendment that would prevent Farm Bill funds from being used for blender pump installations, an amendment to eliminate loan guarantee programs, and multiple amendments that address the renewable fuel standard (RFS).

In the June 13 letter sent to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, the coalition pointed out the economic contributions already made by the emerging renewable energy industries and said the positive impacts of that sector will continue to grow with Congress’ support. Therefore, the group urged senators to defeat energy program amendments. “Farm Bill energy programs support the emergence of new markets for agriculture, encourage putting underutilized land back into production, incentivize innovation in renewable energy and energy efficiency, and create employment opportunities in rural America,” Ritter said in a statement. “These effective programs are a vital part of the overall Farm Bill and provide a strong return for American taxpayers.”

It is unclear how many of the anti-Energy Title amendments will be brought to a vote, although it is believed that the amendments addressing the RFS will be denied because the issue does not pertain to Farm Bill programs. No amendments were being considered June 15, but the process is expected to resume the following week. Debbie Stabenow, chairwoman of the Senate Ag Committee, said in a statement issued June 14 that she is working closely with Committee Ranking Member Pat Roberts and Senate leadership to move forward with amendment consideration. “We have seen now close to 300 amendments offered to the Farm Bill, which illustrates how important this is to our colleagues from every part of the country,” she said. “We are continuing to make progress toward a final amendment package and I’m confident we’ll do what the American people want to see us do – come together and pass a bill that will cut spending and create jobs.”

The Senate Ag Committee’s version of the Farm Bill extends the Energy Title programs and provides $800 million to fund core energy program through fiscal year 2017.Without reauthorization, those programs will expire on Sept. 30.

The House Ag Committee is also formulating its version of the Farm Bill, although at a notably slower pace, and is not expected to begin marking up its bill until later this summer.