The United States Senate passed a five-year farm bill-the Agriculture Reform, Food, and Jobs Act of 2013 (S.954)-containing more than $800 million in mandatory funding for energy programs. The bill also contains funding to grow the renewable chemicals industry.
The Congressional Budget Office CBO estimates that direct spending stemming from the program authorization under the 12 titles in S. 954 would total $955 billion over the 2014-2023 period. That 10-year total reflects the bill’s authorization of expiring programs through 2018 and an extension of those authorizations through 2023. The energy title (Title IX) of the bill contains:
- $261 million in mandatory for the Renewable Energy for America Program (REAP), which will provide a streamlined application process for farmers and rural businesses applying for renewable and energy efficient system projects.
- $193 million in mandatory funding for the Biomass Crop Assistance Program, which provides support for farmers who wish to plant energy crops to produce and use biomass crops for conversion to advanced biofuels or bioenergy. Agricultural producers in BCAP project areas may contract with the Department of Agriculture to receive biomass crop establishment payments up to 50 percent of costs, plus annual payments in amounts determined by the Secretary in subsequent years to help to compensate for lost opportunity costs until crops are established.860 growers in 12 states plant 59,000 acres of new energy crops a year with the assistance of Biomass Crop Assistance Program, according to the Biotechnology Industry Association (BIO).
- $216 million in mandatory funding for the Biorefinery Assistance Program, which provides loan guarantees for renewable energy projects, expands eligibility to include biobased manufacturing and renewable chemicals.
- $130 million for the Biomass Research and Development Initiative. The bill will reauthorize funding for research on biomass feedstock development for bioenergy and biobased products.
- The bill will reauthorize and modify USDA’s BioPreferred Program and the Federal Government Procurement Preference Program. Many of the modifications are adopted from the “Make it Here, Grow it Here” initiative which includes reporting of biobased purchases by the federal agencies, auditing and enforcement of the biobased and education/outreach activities. The program will receive $15 million in mandatory funding.
- Bioenergy Program for Advanced Biofuels. This program provides production payments for advanced bioenergy sources such as methane digesters, advanced biofuels and biopower.
- Community Wood Energy Program. This program provides competitive, cost-share grants for communities to supply public buildings with energy from sustainably-harvested wood from the local area.
The energy title also funds USDA programs that help jumpstart additional biorefinery construction for advanced biofuels and renewable chemicals, dedicated energy crop feedstock development and consumer demand of biobased products-all encouraging further commercialization of the renewable industry.
The House is still working on its version of the Farm Bill (H.R.1947, the Federal Agriculture Reform and Risk Management Act of 2013).