Farm Bill

PRESS RELEASE: ELPC Commends US Senate for Preserving Energy Title & REAP in Farm Bill

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

ELPC Commends U.S. Senate for Preserving Energy Title & REAP in Farm Bill

Concerns about last-minute amendment to REAP will be addressed in conference

 

Washington, D.C. – Today the U.S. Senate passed the Agriculture Improvement Act of 2018 (Farm Bill). The Senate Farm Bill continues important energy title programs, including funding for the Rural Energy for America Program (REAP) that provides incentives to farmers, ranchers and rural small businesses for energy efficiency and renewable energy. The Senate bill, which passed 86-11, includes crucial mandatory funding for REAP.

Andy Olsen, Senior Policy Advocate at the Environmental Law & Policy Center, said:

“Thank you to the Senate for continuing REAP with essential mandatory funding. On a bipartisan basis, Senators recognize that REAP has been a very successful program providing broad benefits to agriculture and serving every state.”

Ann Mesnikoff, ELPC’s Federal Legislative Director, added: “The Senate Farm Bill’s continuation of REAP and the energy title with mandatory funding stands in stark contrast to the House partisan bill that eviscerated both the energy title and mandatory funding for REAP and other programs.”

Olsen added. “We will work through the conference process to support REAP in a final 2018 Farm Bill and to address the last-minute damaging changes to the REAP program made on the Senate floor in the Enzi/Wyden amendment.”

“ELPC recognizes the work of Senator Debbie Stabenow (D-MI and Ranking Member of the Agriculture Committee) deserves great credit for being a champion of the Rural Energy for America Program,” said Mesnikoff.

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PRESS RELEASE: ELPC Pans Passage of the House’s Deeply Flawed Farm Bill

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Contact: Andy Olsen, (609)-334-1456

ELPC Pans Passage of the House’s Deeply Flawed Farm Bill

 House Farm Bill Retreats on Farm Energy

Washington, D.C. – The U.S. House of Representatives today narrowly passed its deeply flawed Farm Bill in a revote after failing to pass the same bill last month. Today’s vote was 213-211 in favor. The partisan House Farm Bill eviscerates energy title programs including the Rural Energy for America Program (REAP).

In response, Andy Olsen, Senior Policy Advocate at the Environmental Law & Policy Center, said:

“The House should have gone back to the drawing board on its failed Farm Bill. Gutting energy title programs including REAP will hurt farmers, ranchers and rural small businesses seeking to improve their bottom lines by investing in energy efficiency and renewable energy. This bill also undermines important conservation programs that bring benefits to farmers across the Midwest including in the Driftless area.”

Ann Mesnikoff, ELPC’s Federal Legislative Director added, “The Senate Farm Bill’s continuation of REAP and the energy title with mandatory funding stands in stark contrast to the flawed House bill that eviscerated both the energy title and mandatory funding for REAP and other programs.”

“We look forward to the Senate taking up their Farm Bill next week and hope that their sensible bipartisan approach to both energy and conservation programs will prevail,” continued Andy Olsen.

REAP provides grants and loan guarantees to agricultural producers and rural small businesses to adopt energy efficiency and renewable energy. REAP has been highly popular with farmers, ranchers and rural small businesses in the Midwest. Demand for the program regularly exceeds available funds.

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PRESS RELEASE: ELPC Commends US Senate Committee on Agriculture for Preserving Energy Title & REAP in Farm Bill

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

ELPC Commends U.S. Senate Committee on Agriculture
for Preserving Energy Title & REAP in Farm Bill

Midwest senators step up in bipartisan effort
to protect farmers’ interests in vital energy programs

Washington, D.C. – Today the U.S. Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry passed the Agriculture Improvement Act of 2018 (Farm Bill) by a vote of 20 to 1. The Senate Farm Bill continues important energy title programs, including funding for the Rural Energy for America Program (REAP) that provides incentives to farmers, ranchers and rural small businesses for energy efficiency and renewable energy. The committee voted to include an amendment to strengthen energy programs with mandatory funding.

Andy Olsen, Senior Policy Advocate at the Environmental Law & Policy Center, said:

“Thank you to the Senators of the Agriculture Committee for continuing REAP with essential mandatory funding. REAP has made a tremendous difference across agricultural sectors and for rural small businesses, bringing a broad range of renewable energy technologies and energy efficiency investments.”

Ann Mesnikoff, ELPC’s Federal Legislative Director added “The Senate Farm Bill’s continuation of REAP and the energy title with mandatory funding stands in stark contrast to the failed House bill that eviscerated both the energy title and mandatory funding for REAP and other programs.” The House version of the Farm Bill was defeated by a margin of 198-213 on May 18th.

The committee adopted a bipartisan amendment to restore mandatory funding for programs within the energy title consistent with the 2014 Farm Bill. The bipartisan amendment was led by Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) with senators from across the Midwest, including Tina Smith (D-Minn.), Joni Ernst (R-Iowa) and Heidi Heitkamp (D-ND).

“Senator Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich. and Ranking Member of the committee) deserves great credit for being a champion of the Rural Energy for America Program,” Olsen added. “Her efforts have advanced a program that helps grow America’s farm energy potential and brings benefits to farmers, ranchers and rural small businesses across the country.”

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Press Release: ELPC Urges US Senate to Preserve Energy Title & REAP in Farm Bill

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

 

ELPC Urges U.S. Senate to Preserve Energy Title & REAP in Farm Bill

  House overwhelmingly rejects amendment to repeal energy programs

 

Washington, D.C. – During consideration of the Farm Bill (The Agriculture and Nutrition Act of 2018), the U.S. House of Representatives overwhelmingly rejected an amendment from Representative Andy Biggs (R-AZ) to repeal the Rural Energy for America Program (REAP) and other Farm Bill Energy Title initiatives by a stunning 82%. The vote was 340 to 74.

In response, Andy Olsen, Senior Policy Advocate at the Environmental Law & Policy Center, said:

“The bipartisan House vote preserving the Energy Title sends a strong message that attempts to cut farm energy efforts should cease. Congress should step up and increase funding for effective farm energy initiatives like the Rural Energy for America Program. REAP serves all agricultural sectors and has benefited farmers throughout the Midwest and across the country.”

Representatives Rodney Davis (R-IL) and Kristi Noem (R-SD) led the House floor opposition to the measure and spoke strongly in support of these programs during the debate over the Farm Bill.

“The resounding defeat of the Biggs Amendment sends a strong signal to the Senate that these programs have bipartisan support and should be renewed with mandatory funding,” said Ann Mesnikoff, ELPC’s Federal Legislative Director.

The failed Farm Bill was defeated on a bipartisan vote of 213-198. The defeated measure would have wholly eliminated reliable mandatory funding for programs in the Energy Title, including the REAP.

REAP provides grants and loan guarantees to agricultural producers and rural small businesses to adopt energy efficiency and renewable energy. REAP has been highly popular with farmers, ranchers and rural small businesses in the Midwest, with requests regularly exceeding available funds.

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New ELPC Report: Farm Energy Success Stories (3rd Edition)

FESS_2014_CoverThe new edition of ELPC’s Farm Energy Success Stories features over a dozen projects from across the nation funded by the Farm Bill’s Rural Energy for America Program (REAP), which ELPC has long championed.  These projects span a wide variety of technologies — including biomass, anaerobic digesters, energy efficiency, geothermal, hydroelectric, solar and wind — that have had a positive impact on rural development.

The new Farm Bill passed earlier in 2014 provides $881 million for Energy Title programs like REAP over 10 years, benefiting small- and mid-sized farms and ranches, as well as rural small businesses. ELPC’s Farm Bill Clean Energy Team has led the charge to extend the Farm Bill’s Energy Title programs and make these programs work well on the ground.

Learn more at ELPC’s www.FarmEnergy.org.

Think Progress: What The New Farm Bill Means For Energy And The Environment

House and Senate negotiators unveiled a new five-year Farm Bill on Monday, a $956 billion piece of legislation that’s been worked on for the past two years and, if passed, will be in effect for the next five.

The House is expected to vote on the bill on Wednesday, with the Senate voting sometime after. The bipartisan bill has gained attention from some liberals for its cuts to food stamps — a program that makes up about 79 percent of the Farm Bill’s cost — and from some conservatives, who think the current bill doesn’t save enough compared to the current funding. But there’s also several energy and environmental implications in this Farm Bill, especially in the realm of conservation, which at $56 billion makes up 6 percent of the bill’s total funding.

Keep Reading

E&E: Rural energy efforts run low on fuel as farm bill expires

Chuck Bushman Farm flipped the switch earlier this year on 360 solar panels spread across its chicken barn in Castalia, Iowa.

Each panel is capable of generating 240 kilowatts of power for the supplier of organic milk and chickens. Some days, the solar panels are able to produce more power than what is needed, and the farm banks it for when the demand for electricity exceeds what the panels provide. The farm also has smart meters for the chicken coop and the rest of its buildings to monitor where electricity demand is highest.

The Department of Agriculture provided the funding for the project through its Rural Energy for America Program, whose mission is to help farmers and ranchers install renewable energy technologies and improve energy efficiency. Since its creation in 2002, the program has given rural landowners grants and loans for about 7,000 projects in all 50 states.

But USDA’s ability to carry out projects like the installation of solar panels was left to dangle last night with the expiration of the farm bill. Without a new bill that includes mandatory funding, conservationists warn, REAP and other programs will run out of fuel and USDA won’t meet rural landowners’ demand for renewable energy and energy efficiency.

“There’s a great degree of uncertainty around the program, and word is getting out that funds are getting cut, but USDA still had demand in excess of what the funding would supply,” Andy Olsen, a senior policy advocate at the Environmental Law and Policy Center, said late last week. “What we really need is for Congress to pass a new farm bill.”

After months of wrangling, mostly on the House side, the sun set on the farm bill at midnight with little fanfare, dwarfed by the larger government shutdown.

This is the second time in two years that Congress has allowed the farm bill to expire. Last year, U.S. farm policy lapsed for three months before Congress early this year tacked a nine-month farm bill extension into larger legislation to avoid the “fiscal cliff.”

Last year’s farm bill expiration was unprecedented in U.S. farm policy history, but this year’s had been long expected as the House has proposed cuts to the bill’s food stamps program. The farm bill’s expiration, though, has been downplayed by senior agriculture leaders in Congress because funding and authorities for major commodity subsidies and food stamps will not begin to expire until the beginning of next year (E&E Daily, Sept. 20).

But several of the bill’s smaller programs — such as those in the energy, conservation, organic and trade-promotion sections — are facing uncertainty at best and shutdowns at worst as of last night’s expiration. For energy programs, it’s a question of funding.

USDA operates seven energy programs, including one that provides loans to biorefinery producers to commercialize the next generations of fuels made from agricultural residues, perennial grasses, municipal solid waste and algae.

Most share a foxhole with REAP, which the department also uses to install pumps at gas stations capable of dispersing higher blends of ethanol.

While they retained their authorizations to operate when the farm bill expired at midnight, the programs are left with a dwindling supply of carryover dollars and no certainty that funding will be available in the future. Planning for future projects will likely become more complicated the longer the nation is without a new bill.

“This year in a couple of the programs we had some carryover mandatory dollars that we were able to utilize. But those opportunities are just about gone,” said Doug O’Brien, USDA’s acting undersecretary of rural development, in an interview last week. “We’re running out of that fuel that is moving these renewable energy programs.”

Rural advocates say the programs are already on life support because of both uncertainty over the farm bill and diminished dollars from congressional appropriators — discretionary funding for REAP this year totaled about $3 million, compared with the $25 million that the farm bill had authorized for each of the past four years.

A year ago, all of the farm bill’s energy programs were among 37 “stranded” programs that did not have an authorization beyond fiscal 2012. While they were reauthorized in the farm bill extension, none of the programs was provided with any mandatory funding.

The 2008 farm bill provided for a total of $255 million in mandatory funds for REAP and $320 million for the Agriculture Department to offer to biofuels producers as part of its Biorefinery Assistance Program.

In the absence of fresh cash, USDA is using carryover mandatory funding from the 2008 farm bill to enroll new participants in the programs, according to the agriculture official. Though the department expected to be able to exceed $35 million this year in grants through the Rural Energy for America Program, energy program accounts are just about tapped out.

O’Brien, whose office administers the programs, said the department is doing its best to work with the funding it’s been given.

“As folks who work in the department, we certainly are cognizant and concerned about what happens about policy in the future,” O’Brien said, “but at the end of the day, we have — and have had — great tools and we’ve just been focused on making sure we’re implementing those in the best way possible.”

The farm bill’s expiration won’t affect ongoing projects but instead hampers the department’s ability to sign up new farmers and ranchers.

“Without the new mandatory funding or appropriated dollars, which is highly unlikely in the short term, they’re essentially not going to run those programs. They’ll remain dormant to nonexistent,” said Lloyd Ritter, co-chairman of the Agriculture Energy Coalition who has worked on four farm bills.

The Obama administration and rural energy advocates are pushing for a farm bill conference committee to include the Senate version of the farm bill’s energy title, which would provide $900 million in mandatory funding for programs. REAP would receive about $48 million a year for the five-year bill’s duration, while the Biorefinery Assistance Program would receive $100 million this fiscal year and $58 million in fiscal 2014 and 2015.

The House version authorizes $1.4 billion in discretionary funding for energy programs but does not provide any mandatory funding.

Stakeholders are simply looking for a clear signal from Congress, Ritter said.

“It’s a very poor way of doing business in the federal government,” he said. “It’s just inappropriate to have programs exist and not exist and exist again. … I don’t think there’s any question it’s turning people away.”

ELPC, 114 Groups Call on Congress to Renew Farm Bill Clean Energy Programs

Today, ELPC and 114 diverse groups from around the country sent a joint letter to Congress calling for renewal of the clean energy programs in the Farm Bill. Congress Agricultural Committees are working on their third attempt to renew the Farm Bill.

The text of the letter follows and may be downloaded here (PDF).

Senate Passes Farm Bill with Funded Energy Title, House Should Act Quickly to Get Bill to President

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

June 21, 2012

Senate Passes Farm Bill with Funded Energy Title, House Should Act Quickly to Get Bill to President

 

WASHINGTON, DC – With a bipartisan vote of 64-35, the U.S. Senate today passed a Farm Bill that includes $800 million in mandatory funding to grow rural America’s clean, reliable, domestic energy from wind, solar and geothermal to biodigesters and homegrown biofuels.

 

“This Farm Bill support clean energy in America.  This Energy Title includes policies and funding to help agricultural producers of all sorts benefit from the growth of energy efficiency, wind, solar, geothermal and homegrown energy,” said Andy Olsen, Senior Policy Advocate with the Environmental Law & Policy Center.

 

The Energy Title passed by the Senate reduced mandatory funding by 23% from 2008 levels. Some rural energy programs were also eliminated.  However, the funding for core programs such as the Rural Energy for America Program (REAP), the Biomass Crop Assistance Program (BCAP) and the Biorefinery Assistance Program will enable them to continue having a significant impact and benefit all agricultural sectors. Corn kernel ethanol is not included in the Energy Title.

 

“We urge the House to pass a bipartisan bill that preserves core Energy Title programs with mandatory funding for rural energy production, rural communities and rural jobs,” said Olsen.

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