Don't Overlook Biomass Stimulus in Farm Bill

By John Eustermann
All of the attention focused on the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act may have caused many folks to overlook other energy/fuel-centric federal "stimulus" programs. As of this writing, Title IX of the Farm Bill offers a number of good programs currently waiting in the shadows of the ARRA.

The 2008 Farm Bill provides more programs and money than were available last year. Thus, a review of all of the programs under the bill is warranted, although space considerations allow for only a sampling of the programs to be presented here.

Section 9004: Repowering Assistance Program-Section 9004 authorizes payments to encourage biorefineries in existence when the Farm Bill was passed to replace fossil fuels used for operational power with biomass power. Payments would be made for installation of new biomass systems.

Section 9005: Bioenergy Program for Advanced Biofuels-Section 9005 provides for payments to be made to eligible agricultural producers to support and ensure an expanding production of "advanced biofuels." Advanced biofuels under the bill are essentially those fuels derived from renewable biomass other than corn-kernel starch and include, among others, ethanol from waste materials. Further, advanced biofuels must have life-cycle greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions at least 50 percent less than baseline (2005) life-cycle GHG emissions for gasoline or diesel as specified by the Energy Independence & Security Act of 2007.

Section 9007: Rural Energy for America Program-Section 9007 is designed to promote energy efficiency and renewable energy development for agricultural producers and rural small businesses and provides grants and loan guarantees for energy audits, feasibility studies and project development of renewable energy systems/energy efficiency improvements. Grants in certain instances, however, may not exceed 25 percent of cost. Loan guarantees are capped at $25 million per loan, and any combination of grant and loan guarantees may not exceed 75 percent of cost.

Section 9008: Biomass Research and Development Initiative-Section 9008 provides competitive grants, contracts and financial assistance to eligible entities to carry out research on and development and demonstration of biofuels and biobased products, and the methods, practices and technologies for their production.

Section 9011: Biomass Crop Assistance-Section 9011 provides support to establish and produce crops for conversion to bioenergy, and to help agricultural and forest landowners with the collection, harvest, storage and transportation of eligible material for use in a biomass conversion facility.

Section 9012: Forest Biomass for Energy-Section 9012 appropriates $15 million annually for fiscal year 2009-'12 for the Forest Service to administer a competitive and comprehensive research and development program to use forest biomass for energy. The Forest Service, other federal agencies, state and local governments, Indian tribes, land-grant colleges and universities, and private entities are eligible to compete for such program funds. The priority research projects include: developing technology and techniques to use low-value forest biomass for energy production; developing processes to integrate energy production from forest biomass into biorefineries; developing new transportation fuels from forest biomass; and improving growth and yield of trees intended for renewable energy.

John Eustermann is a partner with Stoel Rives LLP. Reach him at or (208) 387-4218.