Bioenergy and agriculture groups urge Congress to oppose House Farm Bill

In the US, the American Biogas Council (ABC), the Agriculture Energy Coalition (AgEC) and the Biomass Power Association (BPA) have come out against the H.R. 2, the Agriculture and Nutrition Act of 2018, also known as the Farm Bill.

Over the past two years, these organisations have been working to advance the Farm Bill, legislation that supports the use of biomass and agricultural residues to produce energy. However, amendments affecting support for bioenergy programs have forced them to now oppose the legislation. The Bill will come before the full House of Representatives this week.

Many groups have already expressed opposition to the bill as it makes significant changes to programs that affect the dairy industry and the food stamps program. Among the issues for pro-agriculture and renewable energy groups is the fact that the bill also affects programs that addressing renewable energy and biofuels such as the Rural Energy for America Program (REAP), the Biorefinery Assistance Program, or the Biomass Crop Assistance Program. In addition, the bill eliminates the Energy Title and merges it with Rural Development, while removing mandatory funding for the programs contained within the Energy Title.

Energy Title-funded programs like the Renewable Energy for America Program (REAP) and the Biorefinery Assistance Program help deploy digesters in rural areas and enable farmers to turn waste into renewable energy and fuel. They usually help farmers both reduce the cost of managing on-farm material and generate new revenue streams that lead to better sustainability and resilience in the agriculture industry.

“The US could build 14,000 new anaerobic digesters which would catalyse at least $40 billion in capital deployment and create 335,000 construction jobs and 23,000 permanent jobs to operate the biogas systems. Over half of these opportunities exist on or near farms,” said Patrick Serfass, executive director of the ABC. “The fact that H.R. 2 eliminates the Energy Title and contains no mandatory funding for the programs that encourage this economic activity is unacceptable and short sighted. And when you recognise that the Energy Title programs only represent 1% of the total cost of the Farm Bill their elimination is illogical. H.R. 2 must be opposed until a robustly funded separate energy title with mandatory funding is included.”

"Declining to fund the Biomass Crop Assistance Program in the 2018 Farm Bill is an opportunity wasted," said Carrie Annand, BPA executive director. "Out West, there is a forest crisis with hundreds of millions of dead and dying trees. BCAP can help alleviate this problem by providing funding for the removal of dead trees and transportation to biomass plants where they can be used for fuel. Active forest management through programs like BCAP, by reducing the risk of catastrophic wildfires, can help save money, forests and lives."

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