BIO, Ag Energy Coalition applaud Farm Bill draft

By Erin Voegele | May 13, 2013

The Biotechnology Industry Organization and Agriculture Energy Coalition have issued statements thanking Sens. Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., and Thad Cochran, R-Miss., and other members of the Senate Agriculture Committee for authoring legislation to reauthorize Farm Bill Energy Title Programs.

A press release posted to the committee’s website states that the Agricultural Reform, Food and Jobs Act of 2013 represents the most significant reform of American agriculture policy in decades. According to the statement, the bill ends unnecessary subsidies, streamlines and consolidates programs and cracks down on abuse. Passing this draft of the Farm Bill would result in an estimated $23 billion in cuts to agricultural programs, including those made due to the sequester.

The bill makes several changes to existing policy. For example, information published by the committee said it strengthens crop insurance and expands access to the program. The bill also supports growth in biobased manufacturing to create rural agriculture and urban manufacturing jobs, and supports innovation in bioenergy production by supporting non-food-based advanced biomass energy production, such as cellulosic ethanol and biomass power. In addition, the bill supports research to promote the commercialization of new agricultural initiatives.

The Ag Energy Coalition specified in its statement that the legislation would provide $800 million in mandatory funding for renewable energy and energy efficiency programs. “Robust funding of farm bill energy programs supports energy security as well as great economic and environmental benefits for the entire United States,” said Lloyd Ritter, co-director of the coalition. “The U.S. agricultural and forestry sectors offer significant potential for energy efficiency and production of renewable energy. The economic benefits include continued growth in new agriculture, manufacturing, and stable, well-paying employment opportunities.”

BIO added that the bill includes mandatory funding for the Energy Title programs and eligibility for renewable chemicals. “Reauthorization of USDA renewable energy programs with robust mandatory funding will help U.S. companies continue to commercialize innovative biotech processes that convert ag crops and residues to value added products and in doing so create high-quality rural jobs, spur economic growth, and improve environmental health,” said Brent Erickson, executive vice president of BIO’s Industrial & Environmental Section. “Granting long-overdue eligibility for renewable chemical projects will revive America’s manufacturing sector and improve U.S. economic competitiveness. We thank the members of the Senate Agriculture Committee, particularly Senators Stabenow and Cochran, and will work with them to renew and expand these effective programs.”

The Senate Agriculture Committee is scheduled to meet on May 14 to consider the bill.