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  • bluecheese4u bluecheese4u Jun 30, 2013 2:07 PM Flag

    Future of Farm Bill energy programs remains uncertain

    Future of Farm Bill energy programs remains uncertain

    06/28/2013 by Kathiann M. Kowalski

    While the talk in D.C. turns to President Obama’s climate proposals, it’s back to the drawing board for several federal renewable energy programs, following the House rejection of the Farm Bill last week.

    Unless Congress passes another law or extends the current one, the Biomass Crop Assistance Program (BCAP), Rural Energy for America Program (REAP), and other energy programs will end on September 30.

    The federal Farm Bill covers a wide range of programs including food stamps, crop insurance, conservation, and more. The Senate passed its $955 billion bill to reauthorize the Farm Bill earlier this month. The House voted down its $940 billion version last Thursday by a vote of 195-234.

    Programs for clean and renewable energy have been part of the Farm Bill since 2002. REAP provides grants and loan guarantees for a wide range of renewable energy and energy assistance projects. The nationwide program supports many projects in the Midwest.

    “Not only do renewable energy projects get started, but the monies that are in these programs leverage millions and hundreds of millions of dollars of private investment in rural communities,” says Steve Falck, a Senior Policy Advocate at the Environmental Law & Policy Center (ELPC is a member of RE-AMP, which also publishes Midwest Energy News.)

    BCAP and the related Biorefinery Assistance Program aim to develop biomass energy. Corn stover, giant miscanthus, sawgrass, and even fast-growing poplar trees are potential cellulosic fuelstocks that farmers can provide in the Midwest.

    “If you’re close to where your feedstock is grown, that just makes the end product more competitive,” notes Falck.

    Energy programs are a “tiny, tiny part” of all Farm Bill programs, notes Roger Johnson, President of the National Farmers Union. Even with less than one percent of the funding, however, he says they play a vital role for rural America.

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