Reps. request continued Energy Title funding in House Farm Bill

By Kris Bevill | June 19, 2012

The U.S. House Committee on Agriculture is not expected to begin marking up its version of the 2012 Farm Bill until July, but some members of the House have already begun expressing their support for retaining Energy Title funding. In a letter sent to committee leaders on June 12, a bipartisan group of 12 representatives requested specifically that funding should be reauthorized for the Rural Energy for America Program, the Biomass Crop Assistance Program and the Biorefinery Assistance Program, noting that those three programs have already supported projects in every state and are playing a role in advancing agriculture-based energy.

“These programs often provide the means for entrepreneurs to launch new rural small businesses producing biofuels, wind power, solar, geothermal or many other technologies,” the representatives said in the letter. “The public sector investment leverages greater private sector investment, creating jobs based in America’s private sector.” The representatives added that overcoming the nation’s energy challenges will require “long-term and consistent commitment” and urged Committee Chairman Frank Lucas and Ranking Member Collin Peterson to provide that reassurance by renewing core Energy Title programs.

Signers of the letter included Sanford Bishop, D-Ga.; Tom Latham, R-Iowa; Steve King, R-Iowa; Mazie Hirono, D-Hawaii; Tammy Baldwin, D-Wis.; Aaron Schock, R-Ill.; Ron Kind, D-Wis.; Bobby Schilling, R-Ill.; G.K. Butterfield, D-N.C.; Marcy Kaptur, D-Ohio; Roscoe Bartlett, R-Md., and John Barrow, D-Ga.

The Senate Agriculture Committee reauthorized funding for Energy Title programs in its version of the Farm Bill which is currently being debated by the full Senate. Although funding for energy programs in the Senate Ag Committee’s Farm Bill has been significantly reduced compared to 2008 levels, the inclusion of mandatory funding has drawn support from a variety of groups, including the Environmental Law & Policy Center, a Midwest-focused environmental legal advocacy group. “The Farm Bill before the Senate emphasizes diverse renewable energy technologies across the country by making a priority of the Rural Energy for America Program,” Andy Olsen, senior policy expert at the ELPC, said in a news release.

Energy Title funding has also drawn criticism from a number of senators who promptly filed amendments to eliminate those programs. It is currently unclear if any of the energy-related amendments will be brought to a vote. Without reauthorization by Congress, Energy Title programs will expire Sept. 30.