2014 Farm Bill’s Energy Title Provisions

Friday, March 7th, 2014

M E M O R A N D U M

TO:                 ELPC Clean Energy, Rural and Agriculture Colleagues

FROM:           Howard Learner, Andy Olsen, Al Grosboll and Steve Falck, ELPC

RE:                 Summary of 2014 Farm Bill’s Energy Title Provisions        

DATE:           March 7, 2014

Note: You can download a PDF version of this document here.

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A Summary of Key Changes in the Farm Bill’s Energy Title

Tuesday, February 11th, 2014

(February 11, 2014) President Barack Obama last week signed a Farm Bill after a long grueling process to renew the bill, after the last one ended in 2012. This is the third Farm Bill to include an Energy Title since the first one was established in 2002. The Environmental Law & Policy Center (ELPC) will provide more in-depth resources in coming days but here is a quick overview of key programs.

Farm Bill Energy Title Funding

The mandatory funds authorized in the bill for all Energy Title programs over five years total $694 million (Congressional Budget Office estimated the Energy Title outlays to be to be $880 million over ten years). Compared to the four-year Farm Bill passed in 2008 with overall 2008 funding authority of $1 billion, this is a substantial reduction of 47% on an annual basis based. At the same time, a number of programs were discontinued so core programs can still remain effective.

ELPC has provided a quick guide to overall funding by program here.

Rural Energy for America Program

The Rural Energy for America Program (REAP) continues to be the cornerstone program of the Energy Title. REAP provides grants and loan guarantee incentives to agricultural producers and rural small businesses for adoption of a broad range of renewable energy and energy efficiency technologies.

Changes to REAP include repeal of support for feasibility studies, a simplified application process for smaller and medium-sized projects, and prohibition of funding ethanol blender pumps (or other retail energy dispensing) under REAP. REAP is the highest funded program under the bill, receiving $50 million per year in mandatory funding.

Biomass Crop Assistance Program

BCAP is designed as a catalyst to jump-start production of sustainable, non-food crops for energy that also provide other benefits for soil conservation and water quality.  The BCAP program was modified the most of any Energy Title program in thei Farm Bill.

BCAP will receive mandatory funding of $25 million each year over the next five years. Following are some key changes:

  • Eligible materials must be harvested consistent with a conservation or forest stewardship plan, and that these plans be included in the contract.
  • Clarifies that commodity crops that receive subsidies are not eligible materials.
  • Reduces cost-sharing for establishment payments from 75% to 50% (or $500 per acre, $750/acre for socially disadvantaged farmers). Conservation reserve program or agricultural conservation easement program lands are explicitly excluded.
  • Maintains the matching payments (CHST) program, with the payment limit reduced from $45 per ton over two years to $20 per dry ton over four years.
  • Require that 10-50% of mandatory funding be used for matching payments (CHST).

Repowering Assistance Program

Repowering Assistance provides incentives for biofuel producers to replace fossil fuel-powered systems with biomass systems. This program was renewed after the EPA determined that sorghum ethanol produced via dry mill plant with a combined heat and system fueled by anaerobic digesters have lifecycle greenhouse gas emission reductions of over 50 percent, qualifying as an “advanced biofuel” under the Renewable Fuel Standard.

Programs Repealed

The bill repealed the Forest Biomass for Energy program as well as the Biofuels Infrastructure Study and Renewable Fertilizer Study. Neither study was completed since authorized in 2008.

New Farm Bill Preserves Core Clean Energy Programs

Tuesday, January 28th, 2014

Important Energy Initiatives Good for Rural Development, Jobs, Farm Income

After three years of stops and starts, debate and negotiations, the Congressional Farm Bill Conference Committee has released a compromise bill between the House and the Senate that includes mandatory funding for a downsized Energy Title, including the Rural Energy for America Program (REAP) and Biomass Crop Assistance Program (BCAP). (more…)

Congress Considers Very Different Farm Bills

Thursday, May 30th, 2013

As the Senate continues debate on the Farm Bill, the stakes are high for a growing source of new farm income, jobs, business opportunities and environmental progress. Farm Bill clean energy programs leverage private investment to tap renewable resources of all sorts from America’s agricultural sector as a new, reliable “cash crop” that increases and diversifies income and creates jobs.

The Agriculture Committees of the House and Senate passed sharply different Farm Bills, with big differences for clean energy progress. The Senate Ag Committee provided funding to continue program operations, although at lower levels, while the House Farm Bill eliminates mandatory funding entirely for energy programs.

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115 Diverse Groups Join Call on Congress to Renew Farm Bill Clean Energy Programs

Monday, April 29th, 2013

April 29, 2013 – Today, 115 diverse groups from around the country sent a joint letter to Congress calling for renewal of the clean energy programs in the Farm Bill. Congress Agricultural Committees are working on their third attempt to renew the Farm Bill. (more…)

Farm Bill Energy Crop Program Spurs New Growth

Friday, June 15th, 2012

New and expanded project areas for the Biomass Crop Assistance Program, or BCAP, were announced by the USDA on Wednesday, June 13, 2012. BCAP is a Farm Bill program that provides incentives to agricultural producers who establish, cultivate and harvest biomass for heat, power, bio-based products and biofuel.

The new and expanded project areas include 7,500 newly enrolled acres in New York and North Carolina and three new counties in Project Area 2 in northeast Arkansas. The total BCAP project areas now include nearly 120,000 enrolled acres across 196 counties in 14 states. Here are some details about the announcement: (more…)