The Senate passed its version of the Farm Bill - the Agriculture Reform, Food and Jobs Act of 2013 – on June 10. The $955 billion legislative package set aside $1.1 billion in mandatory funding over the course of 10 years for renewable and clean energy programs. These funds include:
Biomass Crop Assistance Program: $38 million for each fiscal year, 2014 through 2018.
Biorefinery, Renewable Chemical and Biobased Product Manufacturing Assistance: $100 million for fiscal year 2014; $58 million for fiscal years 2015 and 2016.
Biomass Research and Development: $26 million in mandatory funding and an additional $30 million in appropriated funding for each fiscal year, 2014 through 2018.
Rural Energy for American Program: $68.2 million in mandatory funding and an additional $20 million in appropriated funding for each fiscal year, 2014 through 2018.
Biobased Markets (BioPreferred) Program: $3 million in mandatory funding and $2 million in appropriated funding for each of fiscal year, 2014 through 2018.
Bioenergy Program for Advanced Biofuels: $20 million in appropriated funding for each fiscal year, 2014 through 2018.
Despite funding that amounts to 31 percent less per year than the 2008 Farm Bill, the Senate version offers decidedly more support for energy provisions than the bill awaiting a vote in the House. Whereas the Senate bill authorizes mandatory funding for energy programs, the House’s Federal Agricultural and Reform and Risk Management Act calls for discretionary funding. As a result, Congress will need to appropriate funds each year.
To bridge this gap, Representatives Marcy Kaptur (D-OH) and Bruce Braley (D-IA) introduced The Rural Energy Investment Act earlier this month. The bill calls for over $1 billion in mandatory funding for the Biomass Crop Assistance Program, Rural Energy for American Program and other energy titles. It would also extend funding eligibility to renewable chemicals programs. The proposed legislation is awaiting debate in numerous House committees.
Meanwhile, The Federal Agricultural and Reform and Risk Management Act has been placed on the legislative calendar. A vote is expected later this month, perhaps as early as next week. Assuming the bill passes the House, the House-Senate conference will reconcile the differences between the two bills.