Agriculture committees in both the Senate and the House marked up respective versions of the 2013 Farm Bill this week. The $955 billion Senate bill is estimated to save $23 billion through program cuts and consolidations, while the House version - ringing in at $940 billion - saves nearly $40 billion. Provisions for most bioenergy programs remain in each bill, though only the Senate version calls for mandatory funding.
Biomass Crop Assistance Program: Provides financial assistance to owners and operators of agricultural and non-industrial private forest land who wish to cultivate biomass feedstock for energy producers to use for biofuels or bioenergy. In the Senate version, the program will receive approximately $193 billion in mandatory funding. The House version allocates $75 millon per year.
Biorefinery Assistance Program: Offers loan guarantees for renewable energy projects such as the construction and retrofitting of refineries to develop and produce advanced biofuels. The 2013 bill expands the program to include assistance for renewable chemicals and biobased manufacturing. Mandatory funding amounts to $216 million in the Senate version. Like its allocation for BCAP, the House bill authorizes $75 million worth of funding per fiscal year.
Biomass Research and Development Initiative: Supplies grants, contracts and other financial assistance to fund the research and development of biofuels and biomass energy. Senate legislation supports the initiative through $130 million in mandatory funding.
Rural Energy for America Program: Encourages agriculture producers and business owners located in rural areas to invest in energy efficiency and renewable energy. The retooled Senate bill streamlines the application process for small- and medium-sized projects and provides $241 million in mandatory funding.
Biobased Markets Program (BioPreferred Program): Amended to include forest products as biobased products. According to House Agriculture Committee information, the change will allow some domestic forest products in mature markets (pulp, paper and wood pellets) to quality as renewable products under federal procurement guidelines. The Senate bill allocates $15 million of mandatory funds to support the program.
In addition, the legislation reauthorizes the Bioenergy Program for Advanced Biofuels to deliver production payments for advanced bioenergy sources including biofuels and biopower. The Biosiesel Fuel Education Program and the Community Wood Energy Program, which provide grants to share the benefits of biodiesel fuels through outreach efforts and supply public buildings with sustainable, locally-sourced wood, respectively, also received funding. Both versions of the bill call for the repeal of the Forest Biomass for Energy provision.
The full Senate is scheduled to begin debate on the bill on Monday, May 20. A date has not yet been set for the House to hear the bill, though debate is expected to begin sometime in June. Ranking Agriculture Committee Member Collin Peterson (D-MN) expects a new farm will be in place by the time Congress recesses at the beginning of August.
On January 1 of this year, Congress extended the 2008 Farm Bill through September 30, 2013 as the bill expired at the end of the 2012 calendar year. The temporary measure was necessary after the House failed to bring its version of the 2012 Farm Bill to the floor last summer. Congress is responsible for passing a new farm bill that sets a number of policies, including those for energy and forestry programs, every five years.