On Thursday, May 24, Senate appropriators reported spending bills for FY2019 out of committee that fund the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the Department of Energy (DOE). For the second year in a row, appropriators in both the House and the Senate rejected the draconian cuts proposed in the President’s budget request. As last year, the Senate set funding levels higher than the House. However, it is notable that there is more agreement between the House and Senate than in previous years. Funding levels for key bioenergy and related programs (biofuels, biopower, biobased products) are discussed in detail below.
U.S. Department of Agriculture
The Senate Agriculture spending package (S.2976) provides $145.1 billion in funding to USDA and the Food and Drug Administration, nearly identical to the levels set in the House (H.R. 5961). This is $6.1 billion above President Trump’s request and $710 million less than FY18. Of that, $121.8 billion is for mandatory programs and $23.24 billion is for discretionary funds related to agriculture, rural development, conservation, nutrition assistance, and food safety. It includes $2.73 billion for the Agricultural Research Service, $879.1 million for the Natural Resources Conservation Service ($5 million above FY18 and $210 million above the President’s request), and $3.8 billion for Rural Development, which includes $825 million specifically for rural infrastructure.
In the Farm Bill's Energy Title, the popular Rural Energy for America Program (Sec. 9007) received $7.5 million in loan authority in the House and $7.6 million in the Senate. Similar to last year, the House bill eliminates funding for the Biomass Crop Assistance Program (Sec. 9010).
The House version of the Farm Bill (H.R. 2) would eliminate the Energy Title, redirecting individual programs to Rural Development and other areas. A separate amendment to completely eliminate all Energy Title programs, introduced by Rep. Biggs (R-AZ), failed 75 to 340. While the Farm Bill failed to pass the House, leadership expects to bring it to a vote again in late-June. The Senate is expected to markup their Farm Bill in late June.
Department of Energy
The Senate spending package for Energy & Water (S.2975) provides $43.8 billion to fund DOE as well as the Army Corps of Engineers and the Bureau of Reclamation. This is $566 million above FY2018 levels and $7.24 billion above the President’s request for 2019. The House bill (H.R. 5895) requests a total of $36.5 billion. Notable program levels within DOE are as follows:
- Provides record levels of funding for the Office of Science for the fourth year running. ($6.65 billion in the Senate, $6.6 billion in the House, $390 million more than FY18).
- Funding for the Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E) is increased by $22 million relative to FY18 levels in the Senate bill ($375 million in the Senate, $325 million in the House).
- In the Senate, funding for Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE) remains flat from FY18, at $2.3 billion. House appropriators cut EERE funding slightly, to $2.07 billion.
- Fossil Energy Research and Development receives a bump, reaching $727 million in the Senate and $785 million in the House.
- Advanced Engine and Fuel Technologies receives $43 million in the Senate, which includes the Co-Optimization of Engines and Fuels Multi-Laboratory Consortium, funded at $24.5 million.
The Bioenergy Technologies Office (BETO), an office within EERE, receives a total of $215 million in the Senate and $205 million in the House. This is notable since House appropriators had only requested $27 million for FY18. Program areas within BETO include the following (where only the Senate is referred to below, the House simply did not make any funding recommendations for these areas):
- $30 million (Senate) and $27 million (House) for feedstock supply and logistics
- $50 million (Senate) for demonstration and market transformation
- $10 million (Senate) for analysis and sustainability
- $95 million (Senate) for conversion technologies, including:
- $5 million (House & Senate) to improve the efficiency of community and small anaerobic digesters that process farm and food waste
- $5 million (Senate) for R&D on low-emission, high-efficiency residential wood heaters
- $30 million (Senate) and $32 million (House) for advanced algal systems. The House also requests $2 million of this be used for R&D on air capture using algae-to-fuels technology
- Additionally, both chambers direct BETO to further research how baseload power can be supplied with various biomass waste-to-energy technologies, and the Senate directs $5 million towards this. The Senate also requests $10 million for a multi-university partnership to conduct research and provide educational programs on energy production from urban and suburban wastes.
Commenting on the disparity between the Senate package and the President’s request, Senator Lamar Alexander (R-TN), chair of the Senate Energy and Water Development Appropriations Subcommittee, said, “I would tell President Trump and the Office of Management and Budget that science, research and innovation is what made America first, and I recommend that he add science, research and innovation to his ‘America First’ agenda.”
Appropriators hope to advance all 12 spending packages before the July 4th Congressional recess, though it’s also possible that individual spending packages will get bundled into an omnibus spending package. With spending caps lifted in the two-year omnibus appropriations bill passed earlier this year, the appropriations process has returned to a more business-as-usual environment.
For more information see:
- Senate Agriculture, Rural Development, Food and Drug Administration, and Related Agencies Appropriations Bill, 2019
- House Agriculture, Rural Development, Food and Drug Administration, and Related Agencies Appropriations Bill, 2019
- Senate Committee Advances FY2019 Agriculture Appropriations Bill, Senate Committee on Appropriations
- Senate Subcommittee Approves FY2019 Energy & Water Development Appropriations Bill, Senate Committee on Appropriations
- Senate Energy and Water Development Appropriations Bill, 2019
- House Energy and Water Development Appropriations Bill, 2019
- Committee Approves FY2019 Energy & Water Development Appropriations Bill, Senate Appropriations