Tina Smith

United States Senator for Minnesota

Sen. Tina Smith Tells Senate Agriculture Committee Leaders that Farm Bill Energy Programs Are Key to Reviving Lagging Farm Economy

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Senator Leads Bipartisan Push for Strong Funding and Focus on Energy As Senate Begins Work on Farm Bill in Coming Days

WASHINGTON, D.C [06/04/18]—As the Senate prepares to begin work on the 2018 Farm Bill, U.S Senator Tina Smith, today told the leaders of the Senate Agriculture Committee that expanded use of renewable fuels and increased investment in rural energy programs will be key to creating jobs and reviving the nation’s lagging farm economy. 

In a letter Monday to Committee Chairman Pat Roberts (R-KS), and Ranking Member  Debbie Stabenow (D-MI), Sen. Smith, led a bipartisan group of  a committee members in calling for improvements and strong funding in the program’s that make up the Energy section of the Farm Bill when the legislation is taken up in the coming days.

Renewable electricity, biomanufacturing, and energy efficiency programs have been core parts of the Farm Bill for nearly two decades. These important programs represent only a small fraction of the bill’s costs, but they generate large returns—more than $5 billion since their introduction.

These cost-effective programs support jobs and broad economic development across rural America,” the Senators wrote. “As fellow members of the Senate Agriculture Committee, we feel strongly that the Committee must not forget the value energy title programs bring to rural economies. The title should be renewed and improved, with adequate resources to ensure the programs work as intended. We stand ready to work with you to ensure continued success of these important programs in the days ahead, and for the comprehensive farm bill's timely re-authorization.”

In addition to Sen. Smith, the letter was signed by Sens. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), Joni Ernst (R-Iowa), Michael Bennet (D-Colo.), Charles Grassley (R-Iowa), Deb Fischer (R-Nebr.), Heidi Heitkamp (D-N.D.), and John Hoeven (R-N.D.). 

Earlier this year, Sen. Smith laid out a legislative roadmap for the energy section of the next federal Farm Bill. Her Agricultural Energy Programs Reauthorization Act is a strong marker for the future of federal ag energy policies. It would significantly strengthen energy programs that have seen success in the current Farm Bill, including the Rural Energy for America Program (REAP), the biorefinery loan guarantee program, and the Biomass Crop Assistance Program. Notably, REAP is the program that helps ag producers and local businesses develop energy efficient and renewable energy projects that cut costs, create jobs, and strengthen their communities.

Text of the letter is available by clicking here or by reading below:

June 4, 2018

The Honorable Pat Roberts
Chairman
Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry
Russell 328A Senate Office Building
Washington, DC 20510

Honorable Debbie Stabenow
Ranking Member
Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry
Russell 328A Senate Office Building
Washington, DC 20510

Dear Senate Agriculture Committee Leaders:

We were pleased to see your statement reaffirming your commitment to producing a bipartisan

2018 Farm Bill. We are writing today to express support for the farm bill energy title programs.

The energy title s suite of innovative biomanufacturing, renewable electricity and energy

efficiency programs have been integral to the farm bill and American agriculture for nearly two

decades. These cost-effective programs support jobs and broad economic development across

rural America, and are critically important for regions facing stiff economic headwinds due to

declining farm income, low commodity prices, and an uncertain trade environment.

 

A well-crafted renewal of the energy title programs with requisite investments will be a catalyst

for reviving depressed farm community economies. Sections 9003, 9005 and 9006 are only a

few of the innovative programs that can speed the development of world-class biorefmeries to

not only produce biogas and biofuels, but also a myriad of renewable chemicals and biobased

products, all manufactured from the fruits of American agricultural productivity. Further, the

Section 9003 loan program has been critically important to getting this new economic sector

established, and is already paying dividends in terms of both jobs and technical innovation.

 

The Rural Energy for America Program (REAP) has allowed rural farmers, ranchers, and small

businesses to cut energy costs; to date, approximately 15,000 projects have been awarded. The

Biomass Research and Development initiative provides critical research to for the development

of next generation bioproducts and their feedstocks, and the Biomass Crop Assistance Program

helps farmers and foresters diversify into new markets, providing new revenue streams at a time

when potential trade disruptions are casting a dark cloud over rural economies. The Biopreferred

program has been replicated by States and foreign countries alike for its forward thinking

approach to building new markets for biobased industrial products. These and other energy and

sustainability programs are collectively a very small fraction of farm bill spending, but they

leverage substantial economic returns—more than $5 billion since the energy title programs

began.

 

As fellow members of the Senate Agriculture Committee, we feel strongly that the Committee

must not forget the value energy title programs bring to rural economies. The title should be

renewed and improved, with adequate resources to ensure the programs work as intended.

We stand ready to work with you to ensure continued success of these important programs in the

days ahead, and for the comprehensive farm bill's timely re-authorization.

 

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