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A Fighting Chance for Farm Bill Clean Energy Programs

Friday, October 5th, 2012

October 5, 2012 – With Congress adjourned until after November elections, the existing Farm Bill has (temporarily) lapsed, along with nearly all Energy Title programs. The Farm Bill’s successful Energy Title has a fighting chance of survival with support in both parties and both chambers. (more…)

House Ag Committee Farm Bill Eliminates Funding For Farm Energy

Monday, July 16th, 2012

MADISON, WI – On Thursday, July 12, the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Agriculture eliminated mandatory funding for Farm Bill energy programs that encourage new sources of homegrown energy, create rural jobs and foster energy security.

“Eliminating mandatory funding would effectively end programs that have propelled agricultural energy development,” said Andy Olsen, Senior Policy Advocate with the Environmental Law & Policy Center (ELPC). “The loss of mandatory funding means the programs would need to compete annually for dwindling discretionary funding.” (more…)

110 Groups Ask Congress to Renew and Fund Energy Title in 2012 Farm Bill

Thursday, April 5th, 2012

Broad Support for Homegrown Clean Energy Shown in National Letter

WASHINGTON, D.C. – More than 100 diverse groups representing agriculture, energy, rural development and conservation called on Congress today to renew and fund core energy programs in the Farm Bill that push forward clean, homegrown energy. These programs advance energy efficiency, wind, solar, new energy crops, biomass energy and biobased products.

In a joint letter to the leaders of the House and Senate Agriculture Committees, signers noted, “These important and growing industries all benefit agriculture and forestry and are poised to make huge contributions to our economic, environmental and national security in the coming years, provided that we maintain stable policies that support clean energy.”

The energy programs are administered by the USDA and have made a number of accomplishments since the first Energy Title was created in the 2002 Farm Bill:

* The Rural Energy for America Program (REAP) has supported nearly 8,000 energy efficiency and renewable energy projects across the nation in varying agricultural sectors.

* The Biomass Crop Assistance Program has assisted farmers in developing homegrown energy crops that support farms and supply needed energy sources

* Biofuel advancements have accelerated through support from the Biorefinery Assistance Program.

“This letter arrives at the Agriculture Committees as rising gasoline prices remind America that our long-term energy challenges to our nation’s well-being require long-term commitment,” said Andy Olsen, ELPC Senior Policy Advocate. “Polls show the American people believe the Farm Bill should support clean energy and we know Congress can pass a Farm Bill that reflects the will of the American people.”

Download the letter.


President Obama’s 2013 Budget Slashes Farm Energy Programs

Wednesday, February 15th, 2012

(February 15, 2012) On Monday, February 13, President Obama released his proposed budget for fiscal year 2013 under the cloud of an expiring Farm Bill and fiscal austerity demands. The President announced that renewable energy and energy efficiency were priorities; however, they were not priorities within his agriculture budget. In testimony this morning in Washington, Secretary Tom Vilsack said that the need to fund food stamps in this economy forced some hard choices in (more…)

REAP Farm Energy Investments Announced as Congress Considers Cuts to Funding

Thursday, November 10th, 2011

(Nov 9, 2011) Today USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack announced another round of awards under the Rural Energy for America Program, with a focus on solar, wind, geothermal and small hydropower. The awards reflect the growing and diverse opportunities for American agriculture and rural communities to profit from renewable energy.

Despite the success and popularity of the program, a Congressional “Conference Committee” is now deliberating just how drastically to cut REAP funding for 2012. “REAP is a successful clean energy program, generating jobs and economic development in rural communities while cutting pollution,” said Andy Olsen, Senior Policy Advocate for the Environmental Law & Policy Center. “Congress can create jobs and grow our economy, by continuing to renew and robustly REAP for 2012 and beyond.” (more…)

Lugar-Stutzman Farm Bill Proposal Maintains Energy Investments

Friday, October 7th, 2011

(October 7) Earlier this week, Indiana Republican Senator Richard Lugar and Indiana Republican Representative Marlin Stutzman (R-3rd) introduced Farm Bill reauthorization legislation, the Rural Economic Farm and Ranch Sustainability and Hunger Act (REFRESH).  It contains significant energy investments while assertedly saving taxpayers more than $40 billion over its five year life.  In particular, REFRESH includes key components of the existing Farm Bill Energy Title, including the Rural Energy for America Program (REAP) and the Biomass Crop Assistance Programs (BCAP).

(ALERT: While REFRESH is a positive step in the longer term, an immediate priority is next year’s budget. Please add your voice now to those opposing unfair cuts to REAP and BCAP. Time is of the essence – Congress may take further action very soon. Thank you.)

REFRESH provides nearly $1.3 billion in mandatory appropriations for five different clean energy programs with significant additional discretionary funding authorizations.  In particular, REFRESH includes annual funding of $70 million for the REAP program and an additional $80 million annually in discretionary funds.  The legislation also extends REAP to assist our nation’s rural schools with energy efficiency programs.

The legislation also supports the development of energy crops with the BCAP program.  REFRESH proposes to fund BCAP at $55 million dollars a year, with an additional $150 million a year in discretionary funding, while working to improve the program in several important respects. REFRESH includes complementary loan guarantee financing for biorefineries by continuing the Biorefinery Assistance Program for two more years.

REFRESH also adds a new Rural Energy Savings Program for rural electric cooperatives and others to help their customers save energy and money. REFRESH also extends the Biobased markets program.

Without reserving comment on the merits of the entire proposal, we applaud Senator Lugar and Representative Stutzman for recognizing that America’s the great potential for renewable energy from the heartland.  REFRESH affirms the value of energy for rural America, and the win-win of clean energy for rural economic development, energy security and environmental quality.

Proposed REFRESH 2013-2017 Farm Bill Energy Title Funding level
REFRESH Energy Title Programs Total Funding (millions) Discretionary Funding (millions)
REAP $350 $450
Biomass Crop Assistance $275 $750
Biobased Markets $25 $15
Biorefinery Assistance 2013: $100 

2014-15: $80

2016-17: $0

Rural Energy Savings Program $350 $400