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Home » Agriculture, Federal Agency, Federal Legislation, Opinions, Policy

Senate Farm Bill Expands Reach of Energy Title, But Provides Little Funding

Submitted by on June 8, 2018 – 6:52 pmNo Comment

by Jesse Stolark (Environmental and Energy Study Institute)  On Friday, June 8, the Senate Agriculture Committee released the Agricultural Improvement Act of 2018. In contrast to the GOP-only bill that has advanced in the House, the bipartisan Senate farm bill refrains from eliminating the Energy Title, but provides mandatory funding to only one program, Renewable Energy for America Program (REAP).  In addition to changes at the program level, eligible technologies under the Energy Title are expanded, to include renewable chemicals, intermediate ingredients or feedstocks of renewable biomass that are used to create biofuels, renewable chemicals, or biobased products.  This reflects the diversification of the bioeconomy that has occurred since the 2014 farm bill.

The farm bill Energy Title programs have played an important role in creating greater diversification of rural economies across the country. The following Energy Title programs are reauthorized over the next five years:

  • Biobased Markets Program (Sec. 9002),
  • Biorefinery, Renewable Chemical and Biobased Product Manufacturing Assistance Program (Sec. 9003),
  • Bioenergy Program for Advanced Biofuels (Sec. 9005),
  • Biodiesel Fuel Education Program (Sec. 9006),
  • Rural Energy for America Program (Sec. 9007),  
  • Feedstock Flexibility Program for Bioenergy Producers (Sec. 9010),
  • Biomass Crop Assistance Program (Sec. 9011),
  • Community Wood Energy Program (Sec. 9013).

Additionally, the Repowering Assistance Program (Sec. 9004) is repealed and the Biomass Research and Development Initiative (BRDI, Sec. 9008), is moved to the Research Title (Title III).   Below are some key changes the Senate farm bill would make to the Energy Title.

Biobased Markets Program (9002)

Biorefinery, Renewable Chemical and Biobased Product Manufacturing Assistance (9003)

Section 9003 provides loan guarantees for the development of facilities that produce advanced biofuels, renewable chemicals and biobased products. In the 2014 farm bill, the program was expanded to include renewable chemical production. However, currently, the program requires that a qualifying facility produce renewable biofuels, but this is locking out a huge segment of the biobased economy.  Under the Senate farm bill, a facility may now produce any one of, or a combination of, advanced biofuels, renewable chemicals, or biobased products. At a recent EESI briefing on the Energy Title, it was discussed how this change could benefit small companies who want to produce renewable chemicals for various end-uses. Demonstrating the market value of these new chemicals can take years, therefore, Section 9003 could provide important early market support.   

Biomass Crop Assistance Program (9011)

The Biomass Crop Assistance Program (BCAP) is essentially two programs: one provides cost-shares of up to 50 percent of costs for the establishment of cellulosic crops, such as perennial grasses and short-rotation woody trees; the second provides matching payments for the harvesting of eligible materials, such as forestry and agricultural residues.  In the Senate farm bill, algae is added as an eligible crop, and it makes hazardous woody fuel reduction an eligible activity for BCAP.

For more information see:

Senate Ag Committee releases draft farm bill text (AgWeek)

Biofuels and biomass are big losers in Senate Ag Committee’s draft farm bill (Biofuels Digest)

Senate’s 2018 Farm Bill reauthorizes Energy Title programs (Ethanol Producer Magazine)

Senate Farm Bill Could Help Ease Farm Country Trade Worries (Bloomberg)

Farmers receive long overdue certainty in bipartisan Senate farm bill (The Hill)

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