Renewable Energy Leaders, Agricultural Producers Urge Congress to Include Energy Title in New Farm Bill

WASHINGTON, D.C. (Oct. 21, 2011) – A coalition of nearly 50 trade groups and organizations representing renewable energy, energy efficiency, farm, and forest interests today wrote leaders of the House Agriculture and Senate Agriculture Committees to urge inclusion of a robust energy title in any new Farm Bill legislation. The Congressional committees earlier this week proposed a reduction of $23 billion in funding for programs under USDA jurisdiction to the Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction, but they did not provide details on how these cuts would impact individual programs under their jurisdiction.

“The innovative programs authorized in the Energy Title of the 2008 Farm Bill … have helped finance thousands of diverse renewable energy projects and improved energy efficiency at farms, ranches and businesses across rural America,” the letter stated. “As longstanding agricultural safety net programs come under increasing budgetary pressure, these energy programs will continue to grow and diversify the rural economy.”

The letter was spearheaded by the recently formed Ag Energy Coalition, a diverse group of renewable energy, agriculture, environmental, and rural development groups that have come together to support the important energy programs contained in the Farm Bill, defend their funding in the appropriations process, and make policy recommendations to Congress and USDA on how to make the programs more effective and impactful.

Ag Energy Coalition Co-director Lloyd Ritter stated, “Agriculture has an indispensible role to play in our nation’s emerging clean energy economy. It is vital that we develop and commercialize a variety of clean, abundant, renewable energy resources and biobased products, and Farm Bill energy programs are crucial to achieving that goal. They also have the potential to be a game-changer for rural economies across the country, adding many thousands of jobs in the coming years. For these reasons, we are urging Congress to properly fund these programs through the life of the next Farm Bill.”

Biotechnology Industry Organization (BIO) President & CEO Jim Greenwood added, “The United States is a leader in biotechnology innovation and agricultural productivity. With these advantages, we can lead the world in producing energy, biofuels, chemicals and materials from renewable resources. By doing so we can create new markets for agricultural goods and new jobs in rural America, where they’re needed most. A robust energy title is needed to support growers and land owners in the sustainable production of new energy crops for biorefineries and bioenergy.”

National Farmers Union President Roger Johnson said, “Renewable energy is the future of American agriculture and strengthens energy security for our country. These farm bill programs are vital to promoting the next generation of biofuels and spurring investment in renewable energy technologies.”

“When REAP helps a farmer or rural business install a wind turbine to lower their operating costs, taxpayers get lower cost foods and services, American manufacturing and construction jobs, and better air quality. We believe substituting American jobs for imported fuel is the smart way to rebuild our economy. REAP is leading that revolution in rural energy,” stated Mike Bergey, President of the Distributed Wind Energy Association (DWEA).

Michael McAdams, the President of the Advanced Biofuels Association (ABFA), stated, “Now is the time for America to step up and truly compete with other governments around the world if we expect to break our addiction to foreign oil. These programs are helping drive us to the day that we deliver advanced and cellulosic replacement fuels to consumers across the country pulling up to their neighborhood gas stations, while equipping our armed forces with high performance fuels that will enhance our national security for generations to come. This is an area of too much promise for creating jobs, and providing economic and energy security for our nation to let it fall victim to the budget cutting ax now being wielded about on Capitol Hill.”