Farm Bill advances towards passage

January 28, 2014 |

Farm BillA reduced but still robust $881 million Energy Title is one of the highlights, as the Farm Bill emerges from a House-Senate conference and is set for passage.

What’s in it? The Digest has a complete guide.

In Washington, the US Senate and House of Representatives, in a joint conference report, reached a compromise that cleared way for passage of a 5-year Farm Bill including $881 million in mandatory funding for Energy Title programs including eligibility to renewable chemicals under the Section 9003 Biorefinery Assistance Program and Section 9007 Biomass Research and Development Program, and support for new purpose grown energy crops.

The compromise bill, which heads for a House vote as soon as Wednesday, would cut up to $19 billion from farm subsidy programs, save $6 billion through combining 23 conservation programs, and save $8 billion by reducing food stamp programs. The Senate has not yet scheduled a vote on the final bill.

Highlights in the Energy Title

BCAP

The Biomass Crop Assistance Program partners with hundreds of farmers across the country to develop sustainable new biofuels and other products from non-food crops, providing farmers with additional farm income and producing next-generation energy sources. The program currently supports more than 1,100 American growers in 188 counties across 12 states, who are converting 53,000 underutilized acres to energy crops.

Biorefinery Assistance Program

Among the Farm Bill policy changes was the expansion of the Biorefinery Assistance Program. With these amendments, companies seeking to produce high-performance renewable chemicals and biobased products in the US are eligible for loan guarantees to build manufacturing plants.

The Biorefinery Assistance Program also enables production of cutting-edge advanced biofuels by supporting next-generation biorefinery development. The program is assisting U.S. companies secure more than $450 million in private capital for innovative advanced biofuel projects. The program has leveraged nearly $10 of private capital for every dollar of federal investment.

“Access to these loan guarantees is significant in accelerating investment and creating new jobs in the US,” said K’Lynne Johnson, Elevance CEO in Illinois, “and these are high-value jobs, reflecting the technology advances and innovation that underpin the renewable chemical sector.  Timely access to a loan guarantee accelerates moving forward at our Natchez, MS site. In particular, I would like to thank Senator Cochran and Congressman Harper for their leadership on the Farm Bill, as well as Senator Durbin and the Illinois delegation.”

REAP

The Renewable Energy for America Program supports every type of renewable energy technology, including wind, solar, biomass, biogas and hydroelectric power in all 50 states. Since 2008, the program has supported an additional 6,600 U.S. projects, employing 15,000 people and generating or saving more than 7.3 billion kilowatt hours of electricity – enough to power 680,000 U.S. homes annually. The program leverages private investment, as it requires at least a $3 match for each $1 of federal funds.

Biomass Research and Development Initiative

A separate Farm Bill provision would encourage the joint USDA/DOE Biomass Research and Development Initiative to support continued successful biobased chemicals development.

Christophe Schilling, CEO of Genomatica in California, said, “Today’s breakthrough agreement supports both research and commercialization. Research support allows companies to develop novel, economically competitive solutions, such as our first commercial process, which is for the production of a biobased version of the chemical 1,4-butanediol. Commercialization incentives make it easier to build plants that use these innovations and create jobs. I want to thank Congressman Peters for his leadership in driving vital portions of this bill.”

BioPreferred

The Farm Bill strengthens the USDA BioPreferred program which supports the increased use and purchase of biobased products.

“We commend US leadership in promoting high-paying sustainable jobs and value-added bioproducts that compete on performance and cost in global markets,” lauded Chris Olsen, VP of Government Affairs at Tate & Lyle, headquartered in Illinois.

Renewable chemicals

“The inclusion of key provisions in the final Farm Bill helps the country improve its global manufacturing competitiveness, said Corinne Young, Chief Advocate for re:chem, the Renewable Chemicals and Advanced Materials Alliance, a group that has worked to support the legislation.

“It will improve speed to market for higher performing products such as latex-based athletic gear and medical devices, cold water detergents, high strength composites for wind turbines, compostable cups and flatware, recyclable biobased carpets, and even polymers and fibers for emerging applications in light weighting cars and 3D printing,”

Reaction from industry

Lloyd Ritter, co-director, Agriculture Energy Coalition

“The conference report will continue the Farm Bill’s support for economic growth and development in rural America. Renewable energy and energy efficiency programs support new manufacturing and stable, well-paying jobs. Expansion of the programs will enable renewable chemical technologies to create new manufacturing opportunities and jobs. These very modest investments make major energy security, economic, and environmental benefits happen across the entire United States.

“The Agriculture Energy Coalition, representing a broad group of renewable energy, energy efficiency and agricultural groups, has worked with dozens of Representatives and Senators over the past two years to craft today’s agreement on the Farm Bill energy title. We especially appreciate Senator Stabenow’s championship of these successful programs. The programs help grow the rural economy by opening access to critical project capital, ensuring that investments continue to be made in agriculture energy development.”

Mike McAdams, president, Advanced Biofuels Association

“We applaud Congress for developing a bipartisan Farm Bill that maintains funding for important biofuel programs, such as the Biorefinery Assistance Program and Biomass Crop Assistance Program.  By encouraging additional production capacity for advanced biofuels and stimulating development of new energy crops and non-food feedstocks, this legislation will help create jobs and reduce America’s dependence on foreign oil.”

Marc Verbruggen, CEO, Natureworks

Tthis Farm Bill represents an important step toward robust commercialization in the US, recognizing the innovative potential of biobased products in the new economy, defined by sustainable manufacturing and novel applications. We are grateful to astute policymakers, particularly Minnesota Senators Klobuchar and Franken, and Congressmen Peterson and Walz, who championed these critical provisions.”

BIO President & CEO Jim Greenwood

“The agreement announced today represents the successful culmination of two years’ efforts to reauthorize the Farm Bill. We congratulate the leaders of the House and Senate Agriculture Committees for their hard work on this bill, and we particularly thank Chairwoman Stabenow for championing new economic and employment opportunities in biomanufacturing under the energy title.

“With stable policy and the investments included in this conference report, Farm Bill energy programs will continue to help rural communities create economic growth and good paying jobs. The expansion of eligibility to new renewable chemical technologies and the support for new energy crops will create additional opportunities and improve U.S. economic growth across the country.”

Tom Buis, CEO of Growth Energy

“I commend both the House and Senate negotiators for finding a solid compromise to help move American farm policy forward and provide rural America and farmers with the certainty they need. Not only are these measures important for the farmers who provide America with their food and fiber, but this legislation also provides the necessary incentives to continue to develop fuels from the farm.

“I am pleased to see that the Agriculture Act of 2014 establishes $881 million in mandatory funding for the Energy Title. With this funding, critical programs such as the Biorefinery Assistance Program, Rural Energy for America Program and Biomass Crop Assistance Program will continue to provide the funding necessary for rural America to develop new methods and feedstocks for producing energy from America’s heartland.

“The bottom line is that this legislation helps create jobs in rural America and advances first and next generation biofuel production that will help improve our environment and reduce our dangerous addiction to foreign oil.”

Champions of the legislation

Congressional champions of the Farm Bill Energy Title programs include Reps. Bruce Braley (D-Iowa), Cheri Bustos (D-Ill.), G.K. Butterfield (D-N.C.), Matthew Cartwright (D-Pa.), Donna Christensen (D-V.I.), Judy Chu (D-Calif.), Emmanuel Cleaver (D-Mo.), Joe Courtney (D-Conn.), Susan Davis (D-Calif.), William Enyart (D-Ill.), Jeff Fortenberry (R-Neb.), Mike Honda (D-Calif.), Tulsi Gabbard (D-Hawaii), Rush Holt (D-N.J.), Marcy Kaptur (D-Ohio), William Keating (D-Mass.), Adam Kinzinger (R-Ill.), Ann Kuster (D-N.H.), Tom Latham (R-Iowa), David Loebsack (D-Iowa), Mike McIntyre (D-N.C.), Michael Michaud (D-Maine), Richard Nolan (I-Minn.), Scott Peters (D-Calif.), Chellie Pingree (D-Maine), Mark Pocan (D-Wisc.), Dave Reichert (D-Wash.), Carol Shea-Porter (D-N.H.), Aaron Schock (R-Ill.), Louise Slaughter (D-N.Y.), Niki Tsongas (D-Mass.), Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.), Juan Vargas (D-Calif.), Timothy Walz (D-Minn.), and Frederica Wilson (D-Fla.).

The many champions in the Senate include Sens. Tammy Baldwin (D-Wisc.), Michael Bennet (D-Colo.), Roy Blunt (R-Mo.), Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), Robert Casey (D-Pa.), Chris Coons (D-Del.), William Cowan (D-Mass.), Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.), Joe Donnelly (D-Ind.), Richard Durbin (D-Ill.), Al Franken (D-Minn.), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), Charles Grassley (R-Iowa), Tom Harkin (D-Iowa), Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii), John Hoeven (R-N.D.), Tim Johnson (D-S.D.), Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.), Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii), and John Thune (R-S.D.).

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