The 2018 Farm Bill has been introduced by the House Agriculture Committee, beginning a possibly controversial process to pass legislation that could impact the biomass industry.
Earlier this year, over 200 trade associations and companies associated with agriculture and energy sent a letter to the House Ag Committee expressing their desire to have Congress reauthorize energy title programs that currently exist. These energy title programs currently help fund many projects across rural America to develop, among other things, biobased energy and products, including biomass-generated electricity.
Energy title programs, as funded now, make up less than 0.1 percent of the previous farm bill’s spending amounts, while providing substantial benefits to rural communities across the U.S. that base their livelihood and energy consumption, in part, on the bio-based economy.
Reauthorizing current programs would ensure these projects continue for the next five years until the 2023 Farm Bill is passed.
As written today, the 2018 draft reauthorizes energy title programs, but only with discretionary funding. Some lawmakers from states with growing biobased industries are pushing for mandatory funding to ensure the long-term viability and stability for energy programs. Members of the committee that represent these states include Reps. Steve King (IA), Don Bacon (NE), Rick Nolan (MN), Cheri Bustos (IL), Timothy Walz (MN), Rodney Davis (IL), Roger Marshall (KS), Collin Peterson (MN), and Mike Bost (IL).
The Agriculture Energy Coalition released a statement saying it was pleased with the title programs being reauthorized, but said it will push for mandatory funding to “build infrastructure, attract private investment, and spur innovation in rural America.”
It is possible that the debate over discretionary versus mandatory funding will be overshadowed by perhaps the most controversial provision in the 2018 Farm Bill draft: a section that calls for SNAP recipients to work or attend school in order to receive their benefits.
Democrats have already announced opposition to the provision, and could put up a fight against the bill as a whole. The good news for the biobased industry is that such a fight is unlikely to affect funding levels for energy title programs.
The bill in its entirety has not yet made it out of committee, the first step before it can be brought before the House of Representatives for debate and an eventual vote. The Senate Committee on Agriculture is considering its own version of the farm bill.
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