Senate Agriculture Committee Approves Farm Bill with Mandatory Energy Investment

The Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry completed its mark-up of the Farm Bill reauthorization on April 26. The bill includes mandatory funding for a number of programs to advance bioenergy, bio-based products, energy efficiency, and other forms of renewable energy. The bill moves next to the Senate floor for debate later this spring.

With strong bipartisan support and a 16-5 vote, the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry approved "The Agriculture Reform, Food, and Jobs Act of 2012," (see Manager’s Amendment to the Committee Print) to reauthorize many of the nation’s nutrition, agriculture, and forestry programs. The current Farm Bill authorization expires at the end of this fiscal year, September 30. The reauthorization would extend through 2017.

Many of the programs under the current energy title would be reauthorized under the bill. During the mark-up, a bipartisan group of senators, led by Senators Kent Conrad (D-ND) and Dick Lugar (R-IN), successfully amended the bill to include mandatory funding over the next five years for several key energy programs (see Conrad Amendment #1) as follows (numbers reflect total spending over five years):

  • Section 9002: Biobased Market Program - $15 million
  • Section 9003: Biorefinery Assistance Program - $216 million
  • Section 9006: Biodiesel Fuel Education Program - $5 million
  • Section 9007: Rural Energy for America Program - $241 million
  • Section 9008: Biomass Research and Development - $140 million
  • Section 9010 (new number): Biomass Crop Assistance Program - $193 million

The five-year $810 million in total mandatory funding is less than the more than $1 billion authorized for mandatory spending for related programs under the current Farm Bill.

The bill would also reauthorize the following programs with recommended discretionary funding levels, but would not provide mandatory funding:

  • Section 9005: Bioenergy Program for Advanced Biofuels – $20 million per year discretionary
  • Section 9009 (new number): Feedstock Flexibility Program for Bioenergy Producers
  • Section 9012: Community Wood Energy Program - $5 million per year discretionary funding

The following programs would not be reauthorized under this bill:

  • Section 9004: Repowering Assistance Program
  • Section 9009 (old number): Rural Energy Self-Sufficiency Program
  • Section 9011: Forest Biomass for Energy

In addition to authorizing funding, the bill would amend a number of programs. These changes will be described in future posts.