Ag Committee passes Farm Bill, lacks mandatory energy title funds

By Anna Simet | July 12, 2012

By a bipartisan vote of 35-11, the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Agriculture has passed its version of the 2012 Farm Bill, the Federal Agriculture Reform and Risk Management Act.

Most energy title programs such as the Biomass Crop Assistance Program and the Rural Energy for America Program retained funding in FARRM, as they did in the Senate version. Significantly contrasting from the Senate bill, however, the House allotted only discretionary funding for the programs and no mandatory funding, an $800 million loss in guaranteed federal support.

An amendment to reinstate it, by Rep. Leonard Boswell, D-Iowa, was rejected.

Speaking on behalf of the National Farms Union, President Roger Johnson, said energy programs are a critical part of rural development, so the union is disappointed the energy title received no mandatory funding. “Discretionary funds are awarded each year by appropriation and do not provide the secure multi-year funding necessary to promote renewable energy investment,” he said.

Also commenting on FARRM and its lack of mandatory energy title funding, Todd Atkinson, chief of staff for the USDA-FSA said, “At a time of tight budgets, should the status quo be preserved by keeping 100-year old tax breaks for profitable mature industries while blocking new energy innovation in rural America?”

As passed, FARRM slates $75 million for the Biorefinery Assistance Program, $50 million for the Bioenergy Program for Advanced Biofuels, $75 million for the Biomass Crop Assistance Program and $45 million for the Rural Energy for America Program, with minor changes to some program aspects, aside from axing mandatory funding. This includes the elimination of collection, harvest, transport and storage payments for BCAP, the elimination of feasibility studies for REAP and the elimination of grant payments for the Biorefinery Assistance Program.

To read about what the Senate’s version includes for energy title programs, please see "Farm Bill passes Senate, energy title programs intact." 

Now, the Senate and the House will reconcile their different bill measures. The current Farm Bill expires Sept. 30, so if they are unable to reach a compromise before then, it’s likely a one-year extension will be passed.