Ag committee members advocate for Farm Bill energy title programs

By Erin Voegele | June 04, 2018

On June 4, a bipartisan group of eight members of the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry sent a letter to committee chair Sen. Pat Roberts, R-Kan., and ranking member Sen. Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., expressing support for the Farm Bill energy title programs. The Agriculture Energy Coalition has spoken out to thank the senators for their action.

In the letter, Sens. Tina Smith, D-Minn.; Joni Ernst, R-Iowa; Michael Bennet, D-Colo.; Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa; Deb Fischer, R-Neb.; Heidi Heitkamp, D-N.D.; John Hoeven, R-N.D.; and Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., noted that the energy title’s innovative biomanufacturing, renewable electricity and energy efficiency programs have been integral to the Farm Bill and American agriculture for nearly 20 years. “These cost-effective programs support jobs and broad economic development across rural America, and are critically important for regions facing stiff economic headwinds due to declining farm income, low commodity prices, and an uncertain trade environment,” the senators wrote.

“A well-crafted renewal of the energy title programs with requisite investments will be a catalyst for reviving depressed farm community incomes,” they continued.

The letter notes that the Farm Bill energy title programs can speed the development of biorefineries that can produce biogas, biofuels and a myriad of renewable chemicals and biobased products. According to the senators, the Section 9003 Biorefinery, Renewable Chemical and Biobased Product Manufacturing Assistance program, a loan guarantee program, “has been critically important to getting this new economic sector established, and is already paying dividends in terms of both jobs and technical innovation.”

The senators also stress the positive impact of the Rural Energy for America Program, which to date has helped fund 15,000 projects to help rural farmers, ranchers and small businesses cut energy costs. In addition, the senators said the Biomass Crop Assistance Program is helping farmers and foresters diversify into new markets and providing new revenue streams at a time when potential trade disruptions are casting a dark cloud over rural economies.

“These and other energy and sustainability programs are collectively a very small fraction of Farm Bill spending, but they leverage substantial economic returns—more than $5 billion since the energy title programs began,” the senators continued.

In the letter, the senators stress that the committee must not forget the value energy title programs bring to rural economies. “The title should be renewed and improved, with adequate resources to ensure the programs work as intended,” they wrote.

In a statement, AgEC specified that the Farm Bills’ energy title programs represent less than 0.1 percent of total Farm Bill spending and applauded the senators for their support of energy title programs.

“We thank the members of the Senate Agriculture Committee for committing their strong, bipartisan support for the energy title programs,” said Lloyd Ritter, director of the AgEC. “These programs support more than 1.5 million U.S. workers who manufacture biobased products and help rural America adopt new technologies for renewable energy economic opportunities. The final farm bill must include an Energy Title, with strong mandatory funding and necessary updates for the vital programs.

“The Coalition thanks Senators Ernst and Smith for their leadership on this statement of support as well as Senators Grassley, Klobuchar, Fischer, Heitkamp, Hoeven and Bennet.”