The Farm Bill passed by Congress in February reauthorized the Energy Title for five years, including $694 million in mandatory funding for bioenergy programs over the same period. Just a few months later, the House of Representatives is seeking to roll back that mandatory funding through its fiscal year (FY) 2015 agriculture appropriations bill. If implemented, these funding reductions would undermine the bipartisan agreements made through the Farm Bill and significantly hurt federal bioenergy efforts. The planned cuts were first revealed on May 20, when the bill was marked up by the House Agriculture Appropriations Subcommittee.
Under the process known as Changes in Mandatory Program Spending (CHIMPS), the House bill would fund Energy Title programs at $89 million for FY 2015 -- down from the $147 million level provided in mandatory funding in the 2014 Farm Bill (a 39 percent cut). The cuts target three critical programs, with proposed funding levels as follows:
- Biomass Crop Assistance Program - $15 million ($10 million less than Farm Bill mandatory funding)
- Rural Energy for America Program (REAP) - $30 million ($20 million less than Farm Bill mandatory funding)
- Biorefinery, Renewable Chemical and Biobased Product Manufacturing Assistance program - $22 million ($28 million less than Farm Bill mandatory funding)
The House Appropriations Committee approved the bill (with no substantive changes to energy provisions) on Thursday, May 29 by a 31-18 vote. Democrats Sanford Bishop (GA), Henry Cuellar (TX) and Bill Owens (NY) voted with all Republicans to send the bill to the House floor.
The Senate Appropriations Committee also recently advanced its FY 2015 agriculture spending bill with a 30-0 vote on May 22. Unlike the House bill, the Senate bill maintains the $147 million in FY 2015 mandatory funding for Energy Title programs. The Senate bill also provides REAP with $1.35 million in discretionary funding to support additional loan guarantees. The bill now awaits action by the full Senate.
For more information see:
Draft Appropriations Bill Aims to Cut Funding for BCAP & REAP, Ethanol Producer
Senate FY15 Appropriations Markup, Sustainable Agriculture
Author: John-Michael Cross