Clock ticks down on the Farm Bill, RFS comment period opens

By Erin Voegele | August 31, 2012

Labor Day weekend traditionally marks the end of summer. This year, it also marks the final countdown to the Nov. 6 presidential election, which is bound to have significant implications for the bioenergy and biofuel sectors. While the election will be highly important to the future of our industry, all the politics makes it easy to forget that Labor Day weekend also means that we are down to the final month of the current Farm Bill.

The 2008 Farm Bill is set to expire at the end of September. Without the passage of the 2012 Farm Bill—or an extension of the 2008 legislation—many of the programs that our agricultural sector depends on will evaporate, at least until Congress gets around to passing something. The Energy Title programs that have offered overwhelming support to the biopower and biorefining sectors will also be gone.

Congress has eight days left on its legislative calendar between now and the November election. The U.S. House of Representatives calendar shows that the congress is scheduled to be in session Sept. 10-14, and Sept. 19-21. It’s tight, but it is possible that a motivated Congress could push the Farm Bill through. However, all indications are that this won’t happen—at least not until the election season is over.

As of Aug. 28, nearly four dozen agricultural organizations had signed on to support a new coalitionthat is pushing congress to pass the farm bill. The coalition, named Farm Bill Now, launched a website that gives members of the public an easy way to connect with their congressional representatives to advocate for the farm bill. The group has also scheduled an event on Sept. 12 at the U.S. Capital that aims to encourage Congress to pass the farm bill before it expires at the end of the month.

Issues with challenges to the renewable fuel standard (RFS) are also continuing. On Aug. 30, the Federal Register finally posted the official notice opening the public comment period for the RFS waiver requests. The notice document was inadvertently omitted from the Aug. 27 issue of the Federal Register. Comments will be accepted through Sept. 26. Information on how to submit comments can be found on the Federal Register website

During the last week of August, the Biotechnology Industry Organization hosted a media call that did a great job of explaining exactly why attacks on the RFS—even those aimed primarily at corn ethanol—are bad for the advanced and cellulosic biofuel industries. If you are hoping to submit a comment to the EPA and are in need of a talking point or two, I encourage you to check out Biomass Magazine’scoverage of the call.