Axne, House Agriculture Committee Approve Investments in Biofuels, Rural Development and Axne’s Rural Equal Aid Act

Source: By Office of Rep. Cindy Axne • Posted: Monday, September 13, 2021

Yesterday Rep. Cindy Axne (IA-03) voted to approve the House Agriculture Committee’s portion of the Build Back Better Act, which includes provisions she fought for to support biofuel infrastructure and rural businessowners.

The legislation approved today includes $18 billion in rural job-promoting investments through U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Rural Development and an additional $7.75 billion to support agriculture research and infrastructure.

“From investments in our rural businesses to key infrastructure funding to promote biofuels and other clean energy sources, this section of the Build Back Better Act will support Iowa’s communities and chart a path to a cleaner environment for both ourselves and our children,” said Rep. Axne. “I appreciate Chairman Scott’s leadership and openness to hearing the priorities that I brought to him on behalf of the Iowans I represent – and I look forward to seeing how this section will be supported by other key provisions in our Build Back Better Agenda.”

The bill specifically includes $1 billion to support expanded biofuel infrastructure, a key Axne priority, and $400 million for loan relief for rural borrowers, originally proposed by Axne through her Rural Equal Aid Act.

The biofuels infrastructure funding will allow the USDA to provide grants over the next 8 years to expand biofuel pump infrastructure, upgrade existing tanks and pumps, and increase usage of higher blends of ethanol and biodiesel.

The Rural Equal Aid Act funding would provide a payment for six months of the loan amount for borrowers using three USDA loan programs:

  • Business and Industry loans made to small businesses, cooperatives, and nonprofits to develop and expand businesses in rural areas.
  • Two loan programs made through small local intermediaries. The borrowers from these programs are often unable to access other credit, and may have been unable to use the Paycheck Protection Program because they don’t have existing banking relationships.
    • The Intermediary Relending Program, which provides loans of no more than $250,000 made to borrowers who are unable to get credit elsewhere, but need capital to get started or expand their business. These loans average less than $100,000 and support small local businesses.
    • The Rural Microentrepreneur Assistance Program (RMAP), which offers loans of no more than $50,000 through local nonprofits. These loans are available to businesses with no more than 10 employees, making them a frequent choice for entrepreneurs looking for capital to start up a new business. In addition, RMAP loans are frequently used by women entrepreneurs.

The bill also includes:

  • $4 billion for a new Rural Partnership Program to aid small rural communities in community and economic development
  • $3.65 billion for research facilities, such as land grant universities like Iowa State University, to ensure the U.S. is not outspent in agricultural research and infrastructure development
  • $2.6. billion for the Rural Energy for America Program (REAP) to provide grants to farmers and small businesses for energy efficiency upgrades on their operations

The Agriculture Committee’s section of the Build Back Better Act will be added with sections approved by other committees to be compiled by the House Budget Committee later this month before advancing to the House Floor for final approval.

“While I am still withholding my final decision on this package until I see the full bill, seeing these investments included will be a critical part of my choice,” Rep. Axne added.