Senators Introduce Farm Energy Amendment to Recovery Bill

Harkin, Colleagues Push Stimulus Amendment that Would Invest In Biofuels, Other Homegrown Energy Sources

Measure would shift an additional $1.14 billion to support energy programs at USDA

February 6, 2009

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Senators Tom Harkin (D-IA), John Thune (R-SD), Tim Johnson (D-SD), and Jon Tester (D-MT) introduced an amendment (#397) to the economic recovery legislation tonight that would move $1.14 billion from the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) into energy programs at the U.S. Department of Agriculture (UDSA). The measure will be voted on tonight.

Currently, the Senate jobs bill invests a total of $78 billion in energy, including energy tax measures. While the senators believe these  investments are crucial to accelerating the nation’s energy transition, they believe the bill fails to recognize the importance and value of energy programs at USDA. The Senate bill currently includes $250 million for USDA energy programs, compared with approximately $40 billion for DOE energy programs. The senators’ amendment shifts $1.14 billion of the $40 billion DOE funding to USDA energy initiatives enacted in the recent farm bill.

“USDA energy programs play a critical role in reducing our nation’s dependence on foreign fuels and help build wealth and prosperity in rural and urban communities across the country,” said Senator Harkin.  “USDA has a proven track record of quickly, efficiently, and successfully running programs that boost development of advanced biofuels for our transportation systems and invest in our own backyards. It is critically important that we provide the funding they need to move forward quickly.”

“Agriculture based renewable energy is revitalizing communities across rural America,” said Senator Thune. “The 2008 Farm Bill includes several initiatives that will promote second generation biofuels and diversify our rural economy. I am pleased to support this bipartisan amendment that ensures USDA energy programs receive their fair share of funding.”

“There is tremendous potential to create jobs in agriculture through cutting our dependence on foreign energy by retooling our economy to produce more renewable energy,” said Senator Johnson. “This amendment will spur investment and job creation by funding effective research and deployment programs that harness the private sectors push into the renewable energy economy.”

“This amendment will bring economic opportunity to Montana and across rural America,” Senator Tester said. “We need jobs not politics as usual, and this bipartisan measure will put farm country to work to help secure America’s energy future.”

USDA energy programs play a critical role in the development and  commercialization of advanced biofuels. The department also has a stellar record of carrying out initiatives like those already included in the economic recovery bill, including energy efficiency projects and the promotion of renewable energy systems.

The senators noted that in order to meet the national targets in the Renewable Fuel Standard, there needs to be new support for biomass crop production, harvesting, transport and storage – programs already in place at USDA. In addition, during this time when private investment capital is slowing to a drip, the senators believe that Congress needs to support the growing number of commercial biorefineries for advanced biofuels, as well as biomass research and development for better technologies in the future.