February 3, 2014

Farm Bill Agreement: A "Win" for Clean Energy Programs

The U.S. House of Representatives is expected to take up a long-awaited agreement on the Farm Bill today. The compromise, which came late Monday, includes funding for programs that support conservation and renewable energy in the Midwest.

While the Energy Title funding has been reduced overall, Andy Olsen, senior policy advocate for the Environmental Law and Policy Center, said the compromise provides some certainty for renewed growth in rural energy projects.

"America needs to continue to innovate with our energy economy, and we need to do so in such a way that brings broad benefits," he said. "These programs help farmers and they help the country, all at the same time - so, it's very important that they continue."

Olsen said the compromise allows $881 million for the Energy Title over 10 years, including the Rural Energy for America Program (REAP) and the Biomass Crop Assistance Program (B-CAP). If the bill passes, Olsen said, the funding will support diverse technologies for renewable energy and energy-efficiency initiatives in farm communities.

In Olsen's view, these programs benefit the environment while helping a farmer's bottom line. He said REAP has been helpful to almost every agriculture sector in every state.

"REAP supports a broad range of renewable-energy technologies - including manure digesters, wind power, solar power, hydropower and biomass," he said. "And then also, it supports energy-efficiency efforts as well."

B-CAP provides incentives to jump-start sustainable energy crops, he said, some of which have added conservation benefits.

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