Bill aims to revamp REAP, move AgSTAR from EPA to USDA

By Erin Voegele | April 22, 2021

Reps. Chellie Pingree, D-Maine, and Martin Heinrich, D-N.M, on April 22 introduced the Agricultural Resilience Act, which outlines a farmer-focused, research driven path to net-zero agriculture. The bill would, in part, make changes to the Rural Energy for America Program and moves the federal AgSTAR program.

REAP, a program created in the 2008 Farm bill and reauthorized by both the 2014 Farm Bill and the 2018 Farm Bill, provides guaranteed loan financing and grant funding to agricultural producers and rural small businesses for renewable energy systems or to make energy efficiency improvements.

Section 601 of the legislation would make the reduction of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions a primary purpose of the REAP program and add those goals to its selection criteria. The bill would also make agricultural processors eligible for energy efficiency grants and allow NGOs and producer co-ops to be eligible for grants to do energy audits in addition to agencies, rural utilities and colleges and universities. In addition, it aims to increase the maximum REAP award from 25 percent to 50 percent of project costs, and to 75 percent of project costs for producers who are beginning, socially disadvantaged, or veteran farmers or ranchers. The updated REAP program would prioritize projects that would result in the largest net decreases in GHG emissions and set aside 5 percent of funds for on-farm demonstration projects. Regarding funds, the bill would increase mandatory funding for the program in stair steps from $50 million in fiscal year 2021 to $400 million in fiscal year 2024 and thereafter.

Section 602 of the bill directs USDA to do a detailed study of dual-use renewable energy and cropping or livestock systems, plus a risk benefits analysis and a five-year research and extension plan.

Section 603 would transfer the U.S. EPA’s AgSTAR (anaerobic digestion to reduce methane emissions) program to the USDA and include a $5 million authorization for appropriations.

Additional information is available on Pingree’s website