Farm Bill Energy Title Contains Climate Tweaks, Slimmer Funding

Source: By Jessie Stolark, EESI • Posted: Monday, December 17, 2018

On December 12, the Agricultural Improvement Act of 2018 was passed and is headed towards the President’s desk. While the bill is largely viewed as a status-quo farm bill, the bill importantly reauthorizes the Energy Title (IX) and contains some new programs and tweaks aimed at helping producers become more resilient to climate change. Other new areas of note in the 2018 Farm Bill include industrial hemp cultivation and soil health pilot programs, as well as the Timber Innovation Act, which will help drive markets for mass timber.  These programs will continue to help diversify and create greater resilience in rural communities, as well as helping agriculture and forestry become a part of a sustainable solution to climate change.

Reauthorizing important programs for energy efficiency, renewable energy, and bio-based alternatives to petroleum-based products helps create stability for rural communities and producers as well as offering important climate solutions.  While overall the Energy Title receives less funding than the 2014 bill, the bill maintains significant mandatory funding for the Renewable Energy for America Program (REAP), an incredibly popular program that helps install renewable energy and energy efficiency technologies on farms, ranches and in rural businesses, and which is always oversubscribed.

Unfortunately, both the Biomass Crop Assistance Program (BCAP) and the Biomass Research and Development Program (BRDI) received no mandatory funding. Both programs are crucial to diversifying and growing the bio-based economy, and should be expanded.  There is also a new program, the Carbon Utilization and Biogas Education Program (Sec. 9011). This program will provide grants for education on the benefits of carbon sequestration.
Other notable program changes include:

  • Expansion of the definition of “biobased product” to include renewable chemicals;
  • Expansion of the definition of “biorefinery” to include facilities that convert biomass into chemicals and intermediate ingredients;
  • Energy storage is now considered part of a “renewable energy system” under REAP;
  • Carbon utilization research is now eligible for Biomass Research and Development funding.

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