AgEC applauds senators on bill to fund Farm Bill energy title

By Agriculture Energy Coalition | March 30, 2012

The Agriculture Energy Coalition commends Sens. Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, Kent Conrad, D-N.D., Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., and Al Franken, D-Minn., for their leadership on newly introduced legislation to reauthorize and mandatorily fund the most vital energy programs found in the current Farm Bill. This legislation should serve as a bipartisan basis for the Energy Title as the Senate begins debate on a new Farm Bill, which is scheduled to expire in September.

“The Farm Bill’s energy title is a tremendous economic driver for communities throughout rural America, funding renewable energy and energy efficiency projects in every state of the Union,” said Ryan Stroschein, a coalition director. “These funds have leveraged billions of dollars in additional capital and created quality jobs.”

“Imagine a future in farm country that provides advanced biofuels for cars and trucks, even planes, wind, solar and geothermal power for our homes and schools, cleans the air and water, and vastly improves our national security—this is all happening now and will continue if we stay the course,” stated Lloyd Ritter, a co-director of AgEC.

The Farm Bill energy title programs have already enabled commercial biorefineries in two states to break ground. They’ve also enabled farmers in 173 counties across 10 states to begin cultivating energy crops; and awarded more than 7,500 grants to farmers deploying wind, solar, geothermal energy and energy efficiency solutions, creating or saving an additional 30,000 jobs. Energy programs also support U.S. companies employing more than 50,000 Americans and making more than 9,000 new biobased products.

Harkin’s legislation, entitled the Rural Energy Investment Act, is comprehensive farm energy legislation that would provide the USDA with appropriate resources and expanded authorities to continue and broaden its vital mission of diversifying agricultural energy opportunities for farmers, ranchers and rural landowners and small businesses. A total of $1.275 billion in mandatory funding over five years, and additional discretionary funding is provided.

Specifically, this bill would strengthen the biobased markets program for products made from biological feedstocks and increase its funding levels. It also would reauthorize and mandatorily fund the Biorefinery Assistance Program that provides financial assistance for the development, construction, and retrofitting of commercial-scale advanced biorefineries, and make refineries producing biochemicals eligible for participation in the program.

It also would reauthorize, strengthen and mandatorily fund the Rural Energy for America Program. AgEC endorsed proposals for REAP such as simplifying the application processes for smaller REAP projects are included.

It would also reauthorize the Rural Energy Self-sufficiency Initiative, the Forest Biomass for Energy Program, and the Community Wood Energy Program, and it would reauthorize the Biomass Research and Development Program.

Sen. Dick Lugar, R-Ind., also introduced strong energy title legislation several months ago, with significant mandatory funding. AgEC commends Senator Lugar for his very thoughtful leadership in continuing to promote a sustainable and secure energy future that benefits farmers and others in rural America.

The AgEC is a broad membership-based consortium of organizations and companies representing the entire spectrum of clean, renewable energy and bioproducts stakeholders. It includes members focused on biofeedstock production and conversion technologies, rural economic development and diversification, biofuel and renewable electricity production, biobased products, environmental protection and others. Coalition members are committed to seeing a strong bipartisan energy title in the 2012 farm bill that builds on the tremendous clean energy accomplishments USDA has already realized and provides resources to USDA at a level that enables them to continue and expand this important mission.