ELPC Statement on the House Farm Bill’s Gutting of the Energy Title

Thursday, April 12th, 2018

STATEMENT FROM ANDY OLSEN, SENIOR POLICY ADVOCATE and ANN MESNIKOFF, FEDERAL LEGISLATIVE DIRECTOR, ENVIRONMENTAL LAW & POLICY CENTER

The Farm Bill proposal released today by Republicans on the House Agriculture Committee wholly eliminates reliable mandatory funding for programs in the Energy Title. The bill draft also would eliminate mandatory funding for the popular Rural Energy for America Program (REAP). Below is ELPC’s statement on the proposal”

“The House Farm Bill fails to continue mandatory funding for the REAP program that delivers benefits for farmers, ranchers, and rural small businesses,” said Andy Olsen, Senior Policy Advocate at ELPC. “Congress should reject this proposal and work on a Farm Bill that reflects the vast support across the country for accelerating renewable energy and energy efficiency on farms and in rural communities.”

“This is only a starting point and ELPC will work with members to ensure REAP receives effective mandatory funding in a final bill. Last week, more than 80 organizations from across the country sent a letter to Congress expressing strong support for continuing REAP with reliable funding,“ said Ann Mesnikoff, ELPC’s Federal Legislative Director.

REAP provides grants and loan guarantees to agricultural producers and rural small businesses to adopt energy efficiency and renewable energy. The program serves all agricultural sectors and has reached every state. REAP has been highly popular with farmers, ranchers and rural small businesses, with requests regularly exceeding available funds.

To download the letter please visit http://farmenergy.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/04/FINAL-REAP-SUPPORT-LETTER-April-3-2018.pdf

 

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Diverse Groups Send Letter Supporting REAP

Thursday, April 12th, 2018

(April 3rd, 2018) Eighty diverse organizations from around the country signed a letter to Congressional agriculture committees in support of the Rural Energy for America Program (REAP). (more…)

Trump Budget Eviscerates Rural Clean Energy Programs

Tuesday, May 23rd, 2017

On May 23, 2017, the White House released their recommended fiscal year 2018 budget, reflecting their priorities and policies for the nation. And the message clearly states they do not support farm-based clean energy production as a way to invest in rural America. This budget would unravel the legislative deal struck in the 2014 Farm Bill.

The Trump budget eliminated funding for the most effective programs of the Farm Bill Energy Title. Additionally, for several programs the budget eliminated funding that had been carried forward from previous years, which means they went beyond cutting annual funding to even eliminate residual funds.

The Rural Energy for America Program (REAP) has supported over 15,000 energy saving and clean energy producing projects in rural areas in every state. The 2014 Farm Bill provided mandatory funding of $50 million per year. The Trump budget would eliminate all of that funding, and also remove $8 million carried forward from previous years, essentially killing REAP.

The Biorefinery, Renewable Chemical and Biobased Product Manufacturing Assistance program provides loan guarantees for plants that can use agricultural residues and other forms of biomass to produce a range of energy and non-energy projects. The Trump budget claws back the $175 million in accumulated program funding.

The Biomass Crop Assistance Program (BCAP) would be get the same treatment as in previous years – capped at $3 million.

A statement from the Chairs of House and Senate Agriculture Committees indicate they will pursue a more independent path on appropriations, though they did not specifically mention energy programs.

The following chart provides an over view of changes. Note that the negative numbers mean mandatory funding would be eliminated and reserve funds would be taken away.

President’s FY2018 Farm Bill -Clean Energy Programs with mandatory funding
Section Section name 2018 Mandatory President’s 2018 Request
9002 Biobased Markets 5  No change
9003 Biorefinery Assistance Program  $           –  $    (175.0)
9004 Repowering Assistance Program  $           –  No change
9005 Bioenergy Program for Advanced Biofuels  $        15.0  No change
9006 Biodiesel Fuel Education Program  $         1.0  No change
9007 Rural Energy for America Program  $        50.0  $        (8.0)
9010 Biomass Crop Assistance Program  $        25.0  $         3.0

 

Explanation of appropriations terms

Mandatory funding — The amount authorized in the five-year Farm Bill by Congress is available unless limited to smaller amounts in the annual appropriations process; if appropriators do not act, the amount that was authorized is provided to the program.

Discretionary funding – Programs that require annual funding to be passed by the Appropriations Committees.

 

 

2014 Farm Bill’s Energy Title Provisions

Friday, March 7th, 2014

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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

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ThinkProgress: What The New Farm Bill Means For Energy And The Environment

Thursday, January 30th, 2014

House and Senate negotiators unveiled a new five-year Farm Bill on Monday, a $956 billion piece of legislation that’s been worked on for the past two years and, if passed, will be in effect for the next five.

The House is expected to vote on the bill on Wednesday, with the Senate voting sometime after. The bipartisan bill has gained attention from some liberals for its cuts to food stamps — a program that makes up about 79 percent of the Farm Bill’s cost — and from some conservatives, who think the current bill doesn’t save enough compared to the current funding. But there’s also several energy and environmental implications in this Farm Bill, especially in the realm of conservation, which at $56 billion makes up 6 percent of the bill’s total funding.

Conservation

This Farm Bill has been heralded as a win for conservationists, but it’s got some pitfalls too. The bill includes a provision pushed by groups like Ducks Unlimited and Pheasants Forever that allows farmers and ranchers to have to meet a “minimum standard of environmental protection” if they want to receive federal crop insurance on wetlands and other sensitive land. The Farm Bill also tries to discourage farmers from converting native grasslands to farmland by limiting crop insurance subsidies for the first few years for newly converted land.

But the bill also cuts about $6 billion from conservation over the next ten years by consolidating 23 conservation programs into 13. It’s also expected to deliver a blow to native wildlife by lowering the maximum number of acres in the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) from 32 million to 24 million acres. Under the program, farmers convert some of their land back into grasslands, which can serve as crucial nesting habitat for animals like pheasants and ducks.

Renewable Energy

The Energy Title in this year’s bill provides $881 million over ten years for energy programs like the Biomass Crop Assistance Program, which provides funding to farmers who are working to develop new biofuels from non-food sources. The Biorefinery Assistance Program also provides funding to projects working on advanced biofuels, and the Renewable Energy for America Program (REAP) funds wind, solar, hydroelectric, biomass and biogas, and since 2008 has provided funding to projects that in all have produced enough energy to power 680,000 U.S. homes each year. Andy Olsen, Senior Policy Advocate at the Environmental Law & Policy Center, said that “while the overall Energy Title funding has been reduced, this compromise provides the certainty for renewed growth in rural energy projects under both REAP and BCAP.”

The Environment and Agriculture

The Farm Bill is shifting away from direct payments to farmers for owning farmland, instead funding more crop insurance. As NPR reports, crop insurance payments rely heavily on the weather, so if the weather over the next five years is good, the crop insurance program won’t have to pay farmers very much. But in times of drought, heavy rains or colder-than-usual temperatures, crop insurance amounts spike — meaning the effects of climate change could greatly increase the amount the government pays on crop insurance over the next five years.

As E&E Publishing reports, the bill dropped a provision that would have funded research into protecting pollinators such as honey bees, whose numbers have plummeted in the U.S. (andaround the world). Rep. Alcee Hastings (D-Fla.) wasn’t happy when he heard that the provision wouldn’t be included in the current bill: “If we don’t have pollinators, we don’t have any food.”

The bill also doesn’t include an amendment introduced by Rep. Steve King (R-IA) that would have undermined animal welfare laws in California. In California, a law called Proposition 2 requires calves, egg-laying hens and pregnant pigs be housed in cages and pens where they’re able to lie down, stand up, turn around and extend their limbs. These requirementsapply to eggs that are produced in other states but sold in California, but King’s amendment would have prohibited these sort of requirements created in one state and applied to other states. With the King Amendment dropped from the current Farm Bill, California’s welfare laws appear safe.