Lawmakers urge robust funding for Farm Bill energy title programs

By Erin Voegele | April 19, 2019

More than 50 federal lawmakers have spoken out to encourage members of the Senate and House appropriations committees to provide robust fiscal year 2020 funding for Farm Bill energy title programs.

On April 17, a group of 16 senators send a letter outlining their request to leaders of the House and Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Agriculture, Rural Development, Food and Drug Administration and Related Agencies. A group of 36 representatives sent an identical letter to the same recipients.

Within the letter, the lawmakers stress that the energy programs authorized in the 2018 Farm Bill “will help improve our nation’s energy security and economic development. In addition to diversifying our energy supply with renewable energy sources, these programs help rural communities produce good paying jobs, advance manufacturing, and address our changing environment.”

The letters note that every state in the U.S. utilizes USDA’s energy programs, which include support for advanced biofuels, biogas, biopower, bioproducts, renewable chemicals, wind, solar, hydroelectric, hydrogen, energy storage, and energy efficiency projects. “At a time of low farm incomes and uncertainty with foreign markets, investing in impactful cost-sharing programs improves the bottom line for rural communities while securing a more sustainable future,” the lawmakers wrote.

“USDA’s energy programs are cross-cutting, cost effective, and revitalize the rural economy,” the lawmakers continued. The programs include the Biobased Markets Program, the Biorefinery Assistance Program, the Biomass Crop Assistance Program, the Biomass Research & Development Initiative, the Biodiesel Crop Assistance Program, the Biomass Research & Development Imitative, the Biodiesel Fuel Education Program, the Carbon Utilization and Biogas Education Program, the Bioenergy Program for Advanced Biofuels Program, and the Rural Energy for America Program. “Because of its popularity, REAP is typically oversubscribed, demonstrating a need for robust funding,” the lawmakers wrote.

“The development of the FY 2020 appropriations bill comes at a critical time as the USDA proceeds with the implementation of programmatic changes authorized in the 2018 Farm Bill,” they continued. “This bipartisan legislation expanded the scope of these programs to reflect new and innovative technologies while addressing pressing agricultural and societal needs, such as carbon utilization and energy storage. We believe these programs represent economically and technically feasible approaches to meeting our nation’s economic development, energy security and environmental policy objectives.”

The Biotechnology Innovation Organization has spoken out in support of the letters. “BIO applauds Senator Smith and Representatives Craig and Bost for spearheading these letters and highlighting the importance of the Farm Bill’s energy programs,” said Jim Greenwood, president and CEO of BIO. “The programs benefit our nation by driving new industrial biotechnology innovations that are helping tackle society’s most pressing environmental challenges, create healthier neighborhoods for future generations, and bring jobs to rural communities.

“At a time of unpredictability for our nation’s farmers, the agricultural economy, and rural America, it is critical Congress provide funding that will boost certainty for the many Americans who utilize these programs in developing renewable chemicals, advanced biofuels, and other bio-based products. We thank all the members who signed the letters and look forward to continuing to lead the efforts to ensure future funding of these programs,” Greenwood continued.

Full copies of the letters are available on the BIO website