USDA compares 2002, 2008 farm bills

By Kris Bevill
Web exclusive posted Sept. 10, 2008 at 2:08 p.m. CST

The USDA Economic Research Service has compared provisions from the 2002 farm bill with the recently passed 2008 legislation. The side-by-side comparative offers readers a brief look at some of the changes made to various portions of the farm bill, which will govern most agriculture and related programs for the next five years.

Notable changes were made to this year's farm bill pertaining to renewable fuels, and specifically to next-generation biofuels. Eight new provisions were created in the energy portion of the bill, including the addition of the Biomass Crop Assistance Program. BCAP was created to promote the establishment and production of biomass feedstocks for renewable energy. The program allows for up to 75 percent of the cost of establishing eligible crops, such as switchgrass or miscanthus, to be reimbursed by the government and an additional matching payment of up to $45 per ton for the collection, harvest, storage and transportation of those feedstocks to a cellulosic ethanol biorefinery.

Other new programs in the 2008 bill include:
  • the Repowering Assistance Program which encourages biorefineries to make the change from fossil fuels to renewables as a source of power;

  • the Rural Energy Self Sufficiency Initiative, which provides $5 million annually to assist rural communities in becoming energy self-sufficient;

  • and a Biofuels Infrastructure Study, requiring a joint effort on behalf of the U.S. EPA and the agriculture, energy and transportation departments to assess the infrastructure needs for expanding domestic production, transport and distribution of biofuels.

Some previously established programs were expanded to further support the growing renewable fuel industry. For instance, the 2002 Biorefinery Assistance program provided no mandatory funding to support the development of biomass biorefineries. The 2008 version authorizes loan guarantees and mandates through the Commodity Credit Corp. at a rate of $75 million for 2009 increasing to $245 million in 2010.

However, not all programs received increased funding in the 2008 farm bill. The Biodiesel Fuel Education Program was established in the 2002 farm bill as a grant program with the purpose of educating government and other entities with vehicle fleets about the benefits of using biodiesel. The program, which receives a mandated $1 million of funding annually, was extended in the 2008 bill, but there is no increase in funding. Nonprofits and other organizations interested in applying for grant money will have to battle for an annual total $1 million in funding through 2012.

To see the complete side-by-side comparison, visit