House Ag Committee approves Farm Bill

By Erin Voegele | May 16, 2013

The House Committee on Agriculture has approved its version of the Farm Bill, H.R. 1947, by a vote of 36 to 10. The bill, titled the Federal Agricultural and Reform and Risk Management Act, includes nearly $40 billion in spending cuts. The Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry voted to approve is version of the Farm Bill earlier this week. The Senate bill, titled the Agriculture Reform Food and Jobs Act of 2012, includes approximately $23 billion in cuts. 

"I’m pleased the Committee was able to work together, find some common ground, and advance a five-year farm bill today. Needless to say this process has gone on far too long and it is past time to get this bill done. With today’s action, I’m optimistic the farm bill will continue through regular order and be brought to the House floor in June. If we can stay on track, I think we should be able to conference with the Senate in July and have a new five-year farm bill in place before the August recess," said Ranking Member Collin Peterson, D-Minn.

In his opening statement on the committee meeting to consider the Farm Bill, Chairman Frank Lucas, R-Okla., said that the bill achieves nearly $40 billion in savings by eliminating outdated government programs and reforming others.

A summary of the bill published by the committee outlines provisions included under the Energy Title. The House version of the Farm Bill eliminates mandatory spending under the title, and reauthorizes programs at reduced discretionary funding levels. The summary notes that these changes create more than $500 million in savings. The bill also aims to eliminate four programs completely, including the Biofuels Infrastructure Study, the Renewable Fertilizer Study, the Rural Energy Self-sufficiency Initiative and the Forest Biomass for Energy Programs.

Under the legislation, the Biomass Crop Assistance program would eliminate collection, harvest, storage and transportation payments. The summary explains these changes would prioritize funding for the establishment of energy crops. BCAP would be authorized to receive $75 million in funding per fiscal year, from 2014 through 2018.

The bill also makes changes to the Biorefinery Assistance Program by eliminating grant authority for demonstration programs. The program provides loan guarantees for the construction or retrofit of biorefineries that will enable the commercial-scale production of advanced biofuels. The legislation would authorize $75 million in funding per year for fiscal years 2014 through 2018.

The Biobased Markets Program would be altered to amend the definition of biobased product to include a definition of forest product for the USDA’s BioPreferred program. The change aims to make items such as pellets, paper and pulp eligible under federal procurement guidelines.

Regarding the Rural Energy for America Program, the bill would repeal the portion of the program related to feasibility studies. It would also create a tiered application process. A total of $45 million in funding per year would be authorized for the program for fiscal year 204 through 2018.

The legislation also reauthorizes the Biodiesel Fuel Education Program, the Bioenergy Program for Advanced Biofuels, the Repowering Assistance Program, the Biomass Research and Development Program, the Feedstock Flexibility Program and the Community Wood Energy Program. The Repowering Assistance program would be authorized $10 million in funding per year for fiscal years 2014 through 2018. The Bioenergy Program for Advanced Biofuels would be authorized annual funding of $50 million for each fiscal year 2014 through 2018. The Biomass Research and Development program would be authorized to receive $20 million per year for each of fiscal years 2014 through 2018. In addition, the Community Wood Energy Program would be authorized for $2 million per year from 2014 through 20