Senate Passes Ag, Energy Appropriations Bills – Increases Over House Package

Source: By Jessie Stolark, EESI • Posted: Sunday, July 23, 2017

On Thursday, July 20, Senate Appropriators reported several spending bills for FY2018 out of committee, including budget proposals for the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), and the Department of Energy.  Both bills provide spending levels above the President’s proposed cuts. At USDA, there are still deep cuts to renewable energy programs in the Energy Title.  For DOE, spending levels are above the House bill, and certain programs cut in the House bill (such as ARPA-E), are restored in the Senate bill.  Additionally, funding for the Bioenergy Technologies Office (BETO) is well above the deep cuts proposed in the House.

While it’s still anticipated that there will be a Continuing Resolution to fund the government past the end of the fiscal year, the appropriations process sets the tone and priorities for federal agencies moving forward.


The Senate spending package provides $145.4 billion in funding ($4.85 billion above Trump’s request, $7.9 billion less than FY17 and $500 million more than the House spending package). It includes $1.18 billion for Agricultural Research Service ($12 million increase from FY17), $1.4 billion for National Institute of Food and Agriculture, $1.75 billion in loans for clean water and waste disposal programs.

In the Energy Title, the popular Rural Energy for America Program (Sec. 9007) received $7.6 million for loans, the Biomass Crop Assistance Program (Sec. 9010) received no funding, and the Biorefinery Assistance Program (Sec. 9003) received $39 million. In addition to impacting FY2018 funding levels, the FY2018 USDA budget will help decide funding levels for the 2018 Farm Bill.  EESI has also been following the House appropriations process for these programs.

Notably, Agriculture appropriators fully funded the position of Undersecretary for Rural Development. Secretary Perdue had called for the elimination of the position and having a special advisor for Rural Development (RD) instead.  While Perdue had sold the change as an ‘elevation’ of RD at USDA, rural advocates including farm, local governments and others said the job required a Congressionally-confirmed position. RD oversees 40 programs and has 5,000 employees.

Department of Energy

The Senate spending package for Energy & Water provides $38.4 billion in funding, about $4 billion above Trump’s request, $629 million more than FY17 and $840 million more than the House bill.  At the Department of Energy, the Senate spending package provides record levels of funding for the Office of Science ($5.5 billion, $158 million more than FY17).  Funding for ARPA-E is preserved in the Senate bill ($330 million for FY18).  The office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy received $1.94 billion ($1.3 billion more than Trump’s request, $153 million less than FY17 and $84 million more than the House spending package).

In the Senate bill, the Bioenergy Technology Office (BETO) receives $190 million ($34.6 million less than FY17 but $133.4 million above the President’s request and well above the $27 million provided by the House bill).  Senate appropriators requested the following program levels for BETO:

  • $30 million for algal biofuels development.
  • $20 million for Feedstock Supply and Logistics.
  • $50 million for Demonstration and Market Transformation.
  • $5 million for Strategic Analysis and Cross-cutting Sustainability.
  • $85 million for Conversion Technologies, and within the program: $5 million for biopower (utilizing biomass, municipal solid waste, and biosolids) and $5 million to improve the efficiency of smaller biogas systems.

Additionally, the committee supports the continuation of the Farm to Fly 2 Initiative, a joint program between DOE, USDA and other federal agencies to bring down the cost of biobased-jet fuels and other military specification fuels.  The House bill discontinued the use of funds for this program. The committee also urges BETO to continue collaborating with the Office of Fossil Energy on developing bioenergy with carbon capture sequestration (BECCS).

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