U.S. Senator Tina Smith, a member of the Senate Ag Committee, has laid out a legislative roadmap for the energy section of next federal Farm Bill, which is being written in Congress this year.
Sen. Smith’s Agricultural Energy Programs Reauthorization Act is a strong marker for the future of our 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.
Earlier today, Sen. Smith toured the Haubenschild Dairy Farm in Princeton, which deploys renewable energy technology—a waste-to-energy biodigestor—that helps power both the farm and dozens of area homes. The Senator is fighting for a strong energy section in the next Farm Bill so that other farms, as well with agribusinesses and rural communities, can build or expand their own cost-saving energy projects.
“Family farms like Haubenschild Dairy supply Minnesota with great local products, and they do it in a way that strengthens their own communities,” said Sen. Smith. “Haubenschild deploys a technology that cuts costs, encourages homegrown energy, and has allowed them to expand their operations. I want to see more of this happening around the state—especially with the ag community still struggling to power through low commodity prices. My legislation expands what works for our farm communities, and I’m going to be fighting to get it included in Congress’s rewrite of the Farm Bill.”
Sen. Smith’s Agricultural Energy Programs Reauthorization Act would renew and strengthen the following programs:
Rural Energy for America Program (REAP). This program provides eligible entities (e.g., tribes; state or local governments; land-grant colleges or universities; rural electric cooperatives) with grants to support agricultural producers and rural small businesses for energy audits and renewable energy assistance. It also provides loan guarantees and grants for energy efficiency improvements and renewable energy systems (RESs). RESs include biofuels, and power generation from wind, solar, biomass, geothermal, ocean, and some hydropower sources. Sen. Smith’s bill would triple support for the program and allow energy storage projects to be included in the projects that qualify for a REAP grant.
Biorefinery, Renewable Chemical, and Biobased Product Manufacturing Assistance Program. This program seeks to facilitate the development of new and emerging technologies for advanced biofuels, renewable chemical, and biobased product manufacturing by providing federal loan guarantees for constructing or retrofitting commercial-scale biorefineries. Sen. Smith’s bill would increase support for the bill and expand it to non-fuel bio-based products.
Biomass Crop Assistance Program (BCAP). BCAP makes payments to owners and operators of agricultural land and nonindustrial, private forest land for establishing, producing, and delivering biomass feedstock to eligible processing plants. Payments include (1) within BCAP project areas, establishment payments for perennial crops and annual payments of up to five years for non-woody crops and fifteen years for woody biomass crops and (2) matching payments for up to two years for crop collection, harvest, storage, and transportation of qualified biomass. Sen. Smith’s bill would make algae and animal waste eligible materials for the program, and adds resources to more aggressively encourage forest fire hazard reduction.
Feedstock Flexibility Program (FFP). Designed to help stabilize sugar prices so as to avoid costly forfeitures under the sugar loan program. Under FFP, USDA’s Commodity Credit Corporation (CCC) may purchase sugar from processors for resale to ethanol producers for fuel ethanol. Sen. Smith’s bill would reauthorize the program.
Bioenergy Program for Advanced Biofuels. Provides payments to producers to support and expand advanced biofuels (i.e., not derived from corn starch). Sen. Smith’s bill would reauthorize the program.
Biobased Markets Program. Promotes biobased products through two initiatives: (1) a mandatory purchasing requirement for federal agencies and their contractors and (2) a voluntary labeling initiative for biobased products. Products that meet the minimum biobased content criteria may display the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Certified Biobased Product label. Sen. Smith’s bill would reauthorize and increase support for the program.