Editor’s Note: Thank you to those that engaged on this issue through the CEBN’s group letters to congressional leaders in the House and Senate.
The Farm Bill, which reauthorizes a variety of USDA programs to promote economic development across the country, expired at the end of September 2018. Several of these programs involve clean energy initiatives. The Senate and House both passed versions of the bill earlier this year with the Senate’s version providing funding for clean energy initiatives across rural America absent in the House version. This includes mandatory funding for the Rural Energy in America Program among others. The House version eliminated an energy title altogether. Conference negotiators have since worked towards compromise legislation that passed both chambers of Congress.
On December 20, the President signed the Agriculture Improvement Act of 2018, which revises and funds programs under the Farm Bill for another 5 years.
Key Outcomes of the 2018 Farm Bill:
- The energy title was preserved. This includes $625 million in mandatory funding over 10 years.
- Several key programs received funding including the Rural Energy in America Program (REAP), which is fully funded at $50 million / year.
- Other bioenergy programs receiving mandatory funding include the Biorefinery Assistance Program, “Biopreferred” Program, and Bioenergy Program for Advanced Biofuel.
- Several key programs that did not receive funding include the Biomass Crop Assistance Program and the Biomass Research Development Initiative, which was also moved to the research title.
Overall, these outcomes were generally very positive given that many clean energy programs were under threat in the House version of the bill. Opportunities may arise with a Democratic-controlled House to inject additional funding into some Farm Bill programs through the appropriations process. The Agriculture Energy Coalition will continue to advocate for further improvements and/or funds for the REAP and BCAP programs The REAP program, with $50 million/year allocated to it, is currently oversubscribed with demand substantially exceeding capacity.
The Agriculture Energy Coalition is a membership based coalition of interested organizations all committed to a strong bi-partisan energy title Farm Bill legislation. The coalition believes that enlightened forward-thinking farm policy must invest meaningfully in the new energy economy, including renewable energy such as wind, solar, biomass to fuels, chemicals and power, geothermal, small hydro and energy efficiency.
For more background on this issue, view the CEBN’s Farm Bill Webinar from earlier this year.
The Clean Energy Business Network (CEBN) works to advance the clean energy economy through policy, public education, and business support for small- and medium-size energy companies. Started in 2009 by The Pew Charitable Trusts, the CEBN is now a small business division of the Business Council for Sustainable Energy. The CEBN represents 3,000+ business leaders across all 50 U.S. states working with a broad range of clean energy and transportation technologies.