Table Of Contents
Developing agriculture-based renewable energy, including bioenergy, geothermal, wind, small scale hydro and solar, has the potential to respond to security, climate change and economic development which will boost farmer income, create jobs in rural communities, diversify the nation’s energy markets, and protect the environment. By utilizing the renewable resources on America’s farmland, we can generate electricity, fuel our vehicles, and create a variety of products, all of which can provide new revenue streams to farmers, while bridging the divide between ‘renewable energy rich’ rural America and our ‘energy hungry’ urban communities.
The reauthorization and expansion of energy provisions in the upcoming 2007 Farm Bill is vital for renewable energy to meet its potential. The existing Farm Bill energy provisions represent just the tip of the iceberg of integrating energy into agriculture policy. We need to utilize the reauthorization process to take the Farm Bill from the initial conception of including a few energy programs to one where renewable energy and energy efficiency are broadly incorporated into the core approach – that agriculture policy is, in part, energy policy. Pressures from the WTO to reduce subsidies, an increasingly large budget deficit and international instability will all have implications on the reauthorization of the Farm Bill.
The current challenge is to ensure that clean and sustainable renewable energy, specifically from biomass, becomes an integral part of agriculture policy. The increased production and consumption of biofuels, biobased products and biopower may cause or be the trigger for significant change in US agriculture policy. A strong domestic market for biomass may help reduce trade pressures from US commodities on the international market. This in turn may help increase international prices for farmers worldwide. Rural communities which produce biomass for energy and products may be revitalized though fair market prices for their crops and through ownership of biorefineries. Furthermore, US farm and energy policy needs to advance every opportunity in renewable energy to be a significant international player by researching, demonstrating, deploying and commercializing technologies in the United States. Infrastructure and facility development paired with manufacturing production of renewable energy systems could develop and maintain jobs in our country.
The 2007 farm bill needs to include a variety of policies that address the bottlenecks and barriers that still exist for the expansion of renewable energy in our rural communities. Policies must undertake and incentivize educating the public, research, rural economic development through local ownership, feedstock production, biorefinery development, increased market development and use of biobased products.