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House Ag Appropriations votes to cut BCAP, REAP

By Lisa Gibson | May 25, 2011

Just a few weeks after the USDA announced the first project area for the Biomass Crop Assistance Program, the U.S. House of Representatives’ Agriculture Appropriations Subcommittee has voted to eliminate BCAP funding for 2012. Not only that, but the subcommittee’s May 24 vote included an elimination of Rural Energy for America Program funding, as well.

Both elements of the 2008 Farm Bill, the programs are considered integral for farmers and rural businesses developing biomass heat and power. “The House could not be sending a clearer signal that they don’t care about rising on-farm energy prices,” said Andy Olsen, senior policy advocate for the Environmental Law & Policy Center, an environmental legal advocacy group in the Midwest. “This ‘do-nothing’ approach strikes at the heart of America’s ‘can do’ attitude.”

BCAP is designed to provide financial incentives to farmers, ranchers and forest landowners to produce biomass crops for heat, power, biobased products and advanced biofuels. The first project area, approved May 5, was proposed by Missouri-based Show Me Energy. The 39-county area in central and western Missouri, as well as eastern Kansas, was to consist of lowland and highland native mix grasses. Show Me Energy Board President Steve Flick was hopeful the approved project area would bring some energy to the plagued program, which has suffered through budget cuts and has been delayed because of project qualification problems. Flick told ELPC that eliminating REAP and BCAP is like “leaving your wedding before you say ‘I do.’”

REAP is farther along and has seen more success than BCAP, having helped nearly 6,000 farmers and rural businesses in every state in the U.S. with grants and loan guarantees to finance new clean energy and energy efficiency projects, drive private investment and save on energy costs. It has been especially crucial in Georgia, Olsen said. Many projects have been developed with the help of REAP and many more are just coming up, he added. “We’re seeing a lot of other states just starting to come around and we’re just bearing some fruit from the program; we’re working out some of the problems and then boom: they cut our knees out.”

The decision to eliminate the programs still needs to go through the House Appropriations Committee and then the full House, as well as the Senate Agriculture Appropriations Subcommittee, Senate Appropriations Committee and full Senate. Unfortunately, Olsen expects the final House action will be to eliminate the programs, based on the agriculture subcommittee’s vote. “We may see that these programs are just slashed,” he said. “I’d be very happy to be wrong about that point and see the House come back and restore the funding for these programs.”

ELPC is stressing the importance of contacting elected representatives to urge the maintenance of farm energy programs. “This is not the time to be complacent,” he said. “We’re going to keep pushing. We’re going to keep leaving the door open.”

Some organizations have already begun to communicate their displeasure with the vote. “These radical cuts could not come at a worse time,” said Aviva Glaser, agriculture policy coordinator for the National Wildlife Federation. “With increased pressures on working lands to produce food, fuel and fiber for our nation and the world, Farm Bill conservation programs are needed now more than ever. These programs have demonstrated benefits for soil, water, wildlife, and rural economies.” Julie Sibbing, director of agriculture programs for the National Wildlife Federation, added that eliminating BCAP is shortsighted and will impede the development of next generation bioenergy.

 

 

6 Responses

  1. R. Heironimus

    2011-06-09

    1

    Indeed the country is bankrupt, so instead of making serious cuts, across the board cuts, our representatives are looking to target a group whose voice is in the minority; one least vocal. That would be the American farmer. And tragically, while world food stores and supplies are at desperate 20 to 30 year lows, farm subsidies designed to protect the U.S. and the world from catastrophic famine are on the chopping block.

  2. Walt O'Brien

    2011-06-02

    2

    If the projects require eternal subsidies totally out of line with the UCC and lack any form of rational payback schedule, to break even, they deserve to die. Those subsidies which dimwits refer to vis a vis the non-insane energy industry went through the constitutional test of harmonization with tax offsets, deferred tax payment scheduling, and the like so as to ensure what they received in subsidies matches those which apply to each and every business in the USA. Renewable energy subsidies came into existence only under the emergency measures acts which, like alternative energy, have turned out to be yet another vista of bottomless abysses into which Fearless Leader has cast the future of our country. I hope the Feds sue these bioecoretardo anti-power plants for all the money they have wasted through cynical subsidy farming and through sliding Federal grant money to offshore corporations and to organized crime. They will win. Believe it. Learn it. Know it.

  3. Walter O'Brien

    2011-06-01

    3

    The jurisprudential reasons both these subsidies and in future wind and solar subsidies are to be slapped down owe to elements of the constitutionality of their enablement in the first place. In all cases there are remedies which reduce cost to the project developer while enabling them to function on a cost competitive basis usually far better than when operating reliant on subsidies, many of which are being "subsidy farmed" by offshore interests and organised crime. The National Recovery Act of FDR's Admnistration was slapped down by a litigious chicken farm in Iowa whose lawyers made the argument that as NRA subsidized was made possible only under emergency measures, its term could not be extended owing to it failing the constitutional test of harmonization with existing Uniform Commercial Code offsets, subsidies and countervailing tariffs. These energy related subsidies, as they were made possible under the aegis of emergency measures traceable to the main emergency funding acts, therefore are to be allowed to expire. The diverse remedies in the commercial sector consist of but are not limited to: sell-forwards of commodity endproduct via a Dodd-Frank Act regulations-licenced broker; hybridization of otherwise uneconomic renewables intermittent and non-dispatchable power to an economic loadtracking power source such as pumped storage hydro or small hydro developments; development of multiple revenue streams for biomass renewables undertakings, such as wallboard manufacture in conjunction with pelletization operations or introducing steam-based canning and other processing options such as fertilizer manufacture to simple cycle biomass boiler based operations for local and regional markets. Those who helped in the financing of the original projects which are now under threat from loss of subsidies ought to know better, as the first wave of renewables subsidies occurred under the Carter Administration. Those dried up in the 1980's on schedule, and as a result over 50% of those power generating facilities either folded completely or were bought out by the local utilities for pennies on the dollar. Artificially pegging carbon offsets at non-market-based prices is no solution either, as it is obvious the taxpayer will still be covering the cost of the offsets, not the market. Emergency funding measures by their nature operate outside the purview of UCC harmonization approval procedures, which take years, and are therefore unconstitutional. To make permanent these subsidies, the renewable energy community shall have to gird its loins for a decades-long battle in the Federal courts on their behalf. In this way are the shysters and trendies sorted out from those with a genuine commitment to the technology.

  4. dave short

    2011-05-27

    4

    How very unfortunate and as has become standard for folks on the Hill, shortsighted. Extend the oil companies evasion of their fair share and the next week, truncate the incentives to promote the growth of an industry that can help to reduce the dependance on foreign oil. Just another reason to vote the bums out frankly. So out of touch.

  5. Bioblogger

    2011-05-27

    5

    Cutting these biomass production initiatives are very likely just the opening salvo in an attack by the new House majority Republicans to gut alternative fuel and climate change programs. Surprising, really, since the states most likely to be hurt by these cuts are traditional Republican rural strongholds. The outcome of these cuts would be even less market entry of technologies providing choices at the pump, shrinking markets for agricultural and forest industry producers, and declining of products that can provide America with greater energy self-reliance. I have written an open letter to my Congressman on my Biostock Blog defending REAP and BCAP (at http://bit.ly/jSOxvx ). I encourage others to do the same ASAP.

  6. G M Allen

    2011-05-25

    6

    I recognize the need to cut expenses. The country is broke. But.....once again our political "leaders" have voted to cut programs that are very needed. In the Southwest our forests are extremely overgrown. They are destined to burn if not harvested. Since our government allows helter-skelter importation of wood products, the market is so cheap U.S. manufactures cannot afford to harvest. BCAP helped offset expenses and allowed for forest restoration to continue. They cut it...no problem. But at the same time, lets place import tarrifs on wood products so our own wood industry rebounds. It will create jobs, tax revenue, restore our forests to healthy conditions and taxpayer provided programs such as BCAP would not be needed.

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