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US bioenergy and agriculture groups urge Congress to oppose H.R 2

In a joint statement, the American Biogas Council (ABC) in conjunction with the Agriculture Energy Coalition (AgEC) and the Biomass Power Association (BPA) urge Congress to oppose H.R. 2, the Agriculture and Nutrition Act of 2018, the "Farm Bill". "To our organizations, these changes are unacceptable and we urge Congress to oppose H.R. 2 in its current form", the joint statement said.

Patrick Serfass, Executive Director of the American Biogas Council (ABC) seen here speaking at the UK AD & Biogas event in July 2016.
Patrick Serfass, Executive Director of the American Biogas Council (ABC) seen here speaking at the UK AD & Biogas event in July 2016. Patrick Serfass, Executive Director of the American Biogas Council (ABC) seen here speaking at the UK AD & Biogas event in July 2016.

Over the past two years, these organizations have been actively working to advance the Farm Bill, legislation that supports the sustainable use of biomass and agricultural residues to produce different forms of energy. The legislation will come before the full House of Representatives this week.

Many groups have already expressed opposition to the bill as it makes significant changes to programs that affect the dairy industry and the food stamps program. Among the issues for these pro-agriculture and renewable energy groups is the fact that the Bill also transforms programs that addressing renewable energy and biofuels such as the Rural Energy for America Program (REAP), the Biorefinery Assistance Program, or the Biomass Crop Assistance Program.

The rural economy has suffered over the past few years and the House’s Farm Bill as it exists today, would diminish programs that should instead be strengthened to help boost on-farm economies. The Farm Bill’s energy and sustainability programs are central to good agricultural policy. They enhance farm income, create jobs and manufacturing opportunities across rural America. Unfortunately, the House bill comes up short and the Coalition cannot support it without a strong energy title, said Lloyd Ritter of the AgEC.

In addition, the Bill eliminates the Energy Title and merges it with Rural Development, while also removing mandatory funding for the important programs contained within the Energy Title.

The US could build 14 000 new anaerobic digesters which would catalyze at least US$40 billion in capital deployment and create 335 000 construction jobs and 23 000 permanent jobs to operate the biogas systems. Over half of these opportunities exist on or near farms. The fact that H.R. 2 eliminates the Energy Title and contains no mandatory funding for the programs that encourage this economic activity is unacceptable and short-sighted. And when you recognize that the Energy Title programs only represent 1 percent of the total cost of the Farm Bill their elimination is illogical. H.R. 2 must be opposed, until a robustly funded separate energy title with mandatory funding is included, said Patrick Serfass, Executive Director of the ABC.

Energy Title-funded programs like the Renewable Energy for America Program (REAP) and the Biorefinery Assistance Program help deploy digesters in rural areas and enable farmers to turn waste into renewable energy and fuel. According to the signatories, the programs usually help farmers both reduce the cost of managing on-farm material and generate new revenue streams, which leads to better sustainability and resiliency of the agriculture industry.

Declining to fund the Biomass Crop Assistance Program in the 2018 Farm Bill is an opportunity wasted. Out West, there is a forest crisis with hundreds of millions of dead and dying trees. BCAP can help alleviate this problem by providing funding for the removal of dead trees and transportation to biomass plants where they can be used for fuel. Active forest management through programs like BCAP, by reducing the risk of catastrophic wildfires, can help save money, forests and lives, said Carrie Annand, BPA Executive Director.

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