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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


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.


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.

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.


Senate Passes Farm Bill with Funded Energy Title, House Should Act Quickly to Get Bill to President

Thursday, June 21st, 2012


June 21, 2012

Senate Passes Farm Bill with Funded Energy Title, House Should Act Quickly to Get Bill to President

WASHINGTON, DC – With a bipartisan vote of 64-35, the U.S. Senate today passed a Farm Bill that includes $800 million in mandatory funding to grow rural America’s clean, reliable, domestic energy from wind, solar and geothermal, biodigesters and homegrown biofuels.

“This Farm Bill supports clean energy in America.  This Energy Title includes policies and funding to help agricultural producers of all sorts benefit from the growth of energy efficiency, wind, solar, geothermal and homegrown energy,” said Andy Olsen, Senior Policy Advocate with the Environmental Law & Policy Center. (more…)

Bipartisan Dozen House Members Back Farm Bill Clean Energy Programs

Friday, June 15th, 2012

Washington, D.C. –  A dozen members of the House have delivered a bipartisan letter to the House Agricultural Committee asking for reauthorization of key energy title programs as the House agriculture Committee prepares to take up the Farm Bill.

Five Republicans and seven Democrats, led by Sanford D. Bishop Jr. (D-GA) and Tom Latham (R-IA), joined together to urge the House Agriculture Committee to renew core energy title programs that advance energy efficiency, renewable resources and energy independence. (more…)

Mandatory Funding of Clean, Homegrown Energy Absent From Farm Bill Proposal

Monday, April 23rd, 2012

The Senate Agriculture Committee released draft Farm Bill proposal on Friday, April 20, that fails to provide any mandatory funding for core clean energy programs that help farmers, ranchers and rural small businesses reduce energy costs, create jobs and generate homegrown clean energy. Members are set to begin debate on Wednesday.

The Senate Agriculture Committee draft would inflict steep cuts to programs, including REAP (Rural Energy for America Program), BCAP (Biomass Crop Assistance Program), and Biorefinery Assistance.

These programs have pushed innovative energy development and provide a safety net for farmers. (Click here to learn about the accomplishments of the 2002 and 2008 Energy Title.)

Without mandatory funding for these programs, they will wither, rolling back advances in clean, homegrown energy and placing rural jobs in peril. Contact the committee to demand mandatory funding of the energy title.

In 2011, the Rural Energy for America Program (REAP), just one program impacted by proposed cuts:

  • Created or saved 7,000 jobs
  • Cut greenhouse gases by almost 2 million metric tons
  • Saved the equivalent of over 2 billion kilowatt-hours of electricity
  • Generated $456 million in investments in our communities

“We thank the Senators for including Energy Title programs in the new Farm Bill in the difficult climate they face, especially the leadership from Senators Stabenow, Lugar and Harkin.  We also hope the Agriculture Committee can restore mandatory funding to these core clean energy programs that mean so much to our rural communities and to our nation,” said Andy Olsen, senior policy advocate with the Environmental Law & Policy Center.