Deep spending cuts are coming, and some Farm Bill Energy Title programs are at risk of being terminated, reports the 25x’25 Alliance (www.25x25.org). In response, the 25x’25 Alliance, the Advanced Ethanol Council (www.advancedethanolcouncil.com) and numerous others are calling on members of the Senate and House Agriculture Committees to support energy programs and policies in the new farm bill. “These programs address the overarching challenges facing Washington policy makers: the revitalization of the nation’s economy and the creation of good jobs,” the alliance reports.
Growth in the clean energy economy is already happening in part due to 2008 Farm Bill investments made through programs such as the Rural Energy for America Program, Biomass Crop Assistance Program, Biorefinery Assistance Program, and Biobased Markets Program, the alliance states.
“These investments have, in turn, leveraged hundreds of millions of dollars from the private sector, providing significant value to U.S. farmers and the rural economy,” the alliance says, adding “the jobs and industries created by the public and private investments in these programs bolster U.S. technological competitiveness in the global marketplace.”
Of all the programs authorized in the 2008 Farm Bill, farm energy programs account for less than one percent of total outlays, the alliance adds.
Renewable energy stakeholders acknowledge that finding the right combination of cuts and spending is a difficult task for Congress. But, the alliance says, “it is critical that lawmakers get a clear grasp of the benefits of renewable energy production from America’s farms, ranches and forestlands, whether it be biofuels, biomass, wind energy, solar power, geothermal energy or hydropower."
In a letter to the Senate and House Ag Committees last week, the Advanced Ethanol Council (AEC) urged the current farm bill discussion to include extensions and modifications to a number of rural energy initiatives currently being administered by the USDA. AEC Executive Director Brooke Coleman emphasized three specific provisions:
• Extend the Loan Guarantee program for biorefinery projects, but improve critical provisions of the program to more effectively facilitate participation by lending institutions.
• Support USDA’s efforts to build out ethanol refueling infrastructure via the Rural Energy for America Program (REAP) to allow ethanol to compete in the market based on price.
• Reform the Biomass Crop Assistance Program (BCAP) to increase cost effectiveness and better encourage and “de-risk” energy crop production for the advanced biofuel sector, including efforts to preserve the environmental benefits of land coming out of conservation programs by incenting sustainable energy crop production.
“While the Energy Title currently accounts for less than one percent of total budgetary outlays for the 2008 Farm Bill, many of these programs will be critical to existing and future advanced ethanol development projects,” Coleman wrote.
He added, "We look forward to thinking creatively with you about comprehensive solutions that cut cost but continue to provide meaningful value to an emerging advanced ethanol industry."