Senate Agriculture Committee Announces Hearing on Farm Bill Energy Programs

Will federal programs critical to the development of sustainable bioenergy and the bioeconomy be renewed in the next Farm Bill? The authorization for current programs will expire at the end of 2012. The Senate Agriculture Committee will start hearings soon.

On January 30, Senator Debbie Stabenow (D-MI), chair of the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry, announced the hearing schedule for the 2012 Farm Bill reauthorization. Energy and rural development will be the topics for the first hearing on February 15. Conservation programs will be discussed on February 29.

The Agriculture Committee is under pressure to reduce overall spending for nutrition and agriculture programs in the next Farm Bill. In November, the leadership of the House and Senate Agriculture committees recommended cuts of $23 billion.

The energy title in the current Farm Bill, enacted in 2008, authorized a dozen programs and authorized a total of $1.037 billion mandatory funding and $1.113 billion discretionary funding for FY2008 - FY2012 to advance the development of bioenergy and other types of renewable energy and energy efficiency across rural America. Programs such as the Biomass Crop Assistance Program, Biorefinery Assistance Program, and Rural Energy for America Program offer significant returns on the public investment in terms of job creation, rural economic development, and energy security. However, because these programs do not receive baseline funding, they may be especially vulnerable to cuts in the next authorization bill.

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For previous EESI posts and background information on the Farm Bill reauthorization, click here.