What if you had a program than created jobs, helped rural America, developed new agricultural markets and enhanced national security? It would be worth preserving, perhaps. That's the contention of more than 100 organizations who late last week sent a letter to leaders of the House and Senate Ag Committees asking for reauthorizing of Farm Bill energy title programs.
As Congress returns from the Easter recess, the new Farm Bill will could gain attention, but the pressure is on. With talk of major budget cutting across the board, direct payments essentially out of the farm bill, and moves to change crop insurance, any challenge to the energy title are a concern as well.
This is a diverse group of organizations from the Biotechnology Information Organization to the 25x'25 Alliance. "USDA has been so critical to the successful development of renewable energy solutions to our nation's energy challenges," says Read Smith, co-chairman of the National 25x'25 Steering Committee. "Preserving and funding the Farm Bill energy title programs support a sector that creates jobs and helps revitalize our economy. The programs help develop biofuels that reduce our dependence on foreign oil and improve our national security."
The letter was organized by the Agriculture Energy Coalition, a broad membership-based consortium of organizations and companies representing the entire spectrum of clean, renewable energy and bioproducts stakeholders.
Jim Greenwood, President & CEO of the Biotechnology Industry Organization (BIO), adds, "The American people have received a high return on investment from past energy title programs, and the Farm Bill has unlocked private capital for the nation's first advanced biofuel biorefineries and put more than 150,000 acres of underutilized farmland into production raising next generation energy crops.
The letter makes clear that the unique Farm Bill energy programs like the Rural Energy for America Program, Biomass Crop Assistance Program, Biorefinery Assistance Program and Biobased Markets Program "strongly support American agriculture and ensure broad public benefits to the entire country," helping rural communities create or save thousands of direct and indirect jobs.
Finally, the letter urges Congress to provide significant mandatory funding for these vital programs so that farmers, ranchers, and rural small businesses will have the benefit of dependable and predictable financial support throughout the life of the next Farm Bill. The signatories to the letter, many working through the Ag Energy Coalition (AgEC), will continue their outreach to Agriculture Committee leaders to ensure these programs are fully reauthorized, effectively streamlined where needed, and receive strong funding as the Farm Bill is debated and reauthorized.
Senators Harkin, Conrad, Klobuchar and Franken recently introduced energy title legislation providing over $1.2b in funding over the next five years for these critical programs.
Sources: 25x'25 Alliance, Biotechnology Information Organization, Agricultural Energy Coalition.