Statement Release // 9.30.17 // Contact Ernie Shea, 410-252-7079
Statement by 25x’25 Alliance to the Senate Agriculture Committee
Energy Title Programs in the 2018 Farm Bill
September 30, 2017
The 25x’25 Alliance (25x’25) consists of nearly 1,000 different organizations working toward the common goal of producing 25% of our nation’s energy from farms, forests, and ranches by the year 2025. 25x’25 thanks Chairman Pat Roberts, Ranking Member Debbie Stabenow and the other members of the Senate Agriculture Committee for holding a hearing to examine agriculture and energy issues, and the future opportunities that clean energy can provide rural communities through the 2018 Farm Bill.
With the recent cuts to federal spending through actions like continuing resolutions, reconciliation, and changes to mandatory funding levels determined by the annual appropriations process, we recognize that you have the incredible challenge of trying to do more with less. The latest House and Senate budget and appropriations bills have made it clear that numerous agricultural programs, especially those within the Energy Title, are targeted for deep cuts, or outright elimination.
As an alliance, 25x’25 recognizes the need for our nation to live within its means. But we also recognize the need to maintain a strong rural economy that supports a diversified energy portfolio. In its efforts to reduce the federal deficit, Congress must be careful not to sacrifice critical national priorities, especially priorities that will ultimately leave our nation on a sounder footing in the future. These priorities include strengthening our national security, creating jobs, and producing new economic opportunities and investments in rural America.
The Rural Energy for America Program (REAP) supports a wide array of agriculture‐based energy efficiency and renewable energy projects, including wind, solar, geothermal, anaerobic digesters, biomass energy, and small hydroelectric, as well as energy efficiency upgrades and retrofits. Through grants and loan guarantees, this program allows farmers to save on energy bills and even become energy producers. Furthermore, it creates jobs in manufacturing, installing, and maintaining renewable energy and energy efficient systems that serve as real world examples that inspire others to follow suit.
Since its inception, REAP has positively impacted every state in America. Since the 2008 Farm Bill, nearly 13,000 projects in all 50 states have received awards, leveraging more than $3 billion in private investment. Last year, REAP provided over $35 million to farms, ranches and rural small businesses. These grants can cover no more than 25% of the total project costs, meaning that the real amount of investment in REAP projects is much higher. Unfortunately, the House budget would cut mandatory REAP appropriations from $50 million this year to just $1 million in FY 2018, and the Senate’s proposal would cut REAP to $7.6 million.
In a relatively short period of time, the U.S. ethanol industry has dramatically increased the amount of energy we produce domestically, significantly reducing our need to import oil. To continue down this path towards energy independence, we must continue to support the development of cellulosic ethanol and similar advanced biofuels from corn stover, switchgrass, poplar trees, and other biomass sources. Many of the programs found within the Farm Bill’s Energy Title are designed to meet this need.
The Biorefinery, Renewable Chemical, and Biobased Product Manufacturing Assistance Program provides critical financing for commercial-scale advanced biorefineries. It reduces investor risk, provides good-paying construction and operation jobs, and broadens the feedstocks used to develop biofuels. Unfortunately, this program currently has no funding.
While the Biorefinery, Renewable Chemical, and Biobased Product Manufacturing Assistance Program focuses on the construction of bioenergy facilities, the Biomass Crop Assistance Programs (BCAP) ensures that these facilities will have the biomass energy feedstocks they need. BCAP provides assistance to help farmers and foresters plant and collect next generation, purpose grown energy crops and other biomass key to ensuring the near‐term commercialization of low‐carbon advanced biofuels, biopower, and bioproducts. Like other programs, funding for BCAP has been decimated over the past two appropriation cycles, potentially leaving would-be biorefiners without the feedstocks they need to justify new facilities.
The primary agent supporting the efforts of these programs and projects is the Biomass Research and Development Initiative which funds collaborative research on a broad range of topics, from the harvest, transport, and storage of feedstocks, to the development of biofuel and biobased products. This is the type of research that will lead to the cost-saving innovations that will allow the bioenergy industry to stand on its own, without the support of federal dollars. These programs – and others such as the Bioenergy Program for Advanced Biofuel and the Community Wood Energy Program – are especially important for rural communities that have visions of becoming leaders in biomass and bioenergy production. We must also maintain programs that advance other forms of clean energy in rural America.
Together, the Energy Title comprises less than 1% of the cost of the 2014 Farm Bill. Yet the economic and societal benefits they produce are beyond measure. For decades now, we have been hearing political leaders talk about the need for the US to become energy independent, and rural America can lead the way. However, cuts in Energy Title programs have occurred at the same time as low commodity prices and stale export markets that have slashed net farm income.
In the coming months, as work to develop the 2018 Farm Bill advances, we hope that the Agriculture Committees will continue to defend and support the Energy Title programs that demonstrate an honest commitment by Congress to achieving the crucial goal of a viable and resilient rural America. These programs have proved themselves worthy of reauthorization and robust funding.