The Farm Bill is the most important legislation for rural economic development. The current version of the Farm Bill, known as the Agricultural Act of 2014, is set to expire this year. As a result, Congress will soon turn its attention to hammering out details for the next five years of farm and rural business policy.
As companies continue to develop biobased products and fuels, however, the Farm Bill also has a significant impact on the growth of the biobased economy. Because of this, Lloyd Ritter, Director of the Ag Energy Coalition, is often asked about a small sliver of the bill that has a national impact, but only represents one-tenth of one percent of the bill’s overall budget: Farm Bill Energy Title programs.
Recently, Ritter published a piece in Biomass Magazine in which he explores four of the Energy Title programs and their positive impacts for businesses, rural communities and individual citizens, and why these programs are important to reauthorize in the new version of the bill:
Biobased Markets Program
This program establishes a market for businesses to sell biobased products to the federal government. Ritter notes the economic impact this program has generated:
The program now includes 97 federal purchasing categories, listing about 15,000 biobased products. Additionally, the USDA Certified Biobased label now appears on more than 3,000 products. More than 1.5 million American workers produce biobased products, generating over $127 billion in sales.
Biorefinery, Renewable Chemical, and Biobased Product Manufacturing Assistance Program
This program works with rural lenders to secure financing for companies building refineries for renewable chemicals, biobased products and advanced biofuels. In his piece, Ritter highlights one company in rural Nevada that gained new business thanks to the financial assistance:
Ryze Renewables Reno, with a loan from Jefferson Financial Federal Credit Union, is building a 40 million gallon per year biorefinery in Storey County, NV, to convert distillers’ corn oil from ethanol plants into renewable diesel.
Rural Energy for America Program
This program, also known as REAP, provides grants and loan guarantees to the development of energy efficient and renewable energy technologies. Ritter includes an example of one university helping farmers reap (pun intended) the benefits of REAP:
Since starting a REAP-funded energy audit program, the University of Georgia in Athens has helped over 1,000 poultry houses on 50 farms lower energy costs by identifying high-impact efficiency upgrades.
Biomass Crop Assistance Program
Lastly, Ritter dives into the positive impacts of the Biomass Crop Assistance Program, which provides matching payments to farmers who produce and deliver dedicated energy crops to next-generation biorefineries generating renewable energy, advanced biofuels and biobased products. Ritter tells the story of one Iowa farmer that saw a new revenue stream open after the policy was implemented:
Rather than grind up corn stover or plow it back into the field, Emmetsburg, Iowa, farmer Jay Gunderson bales and delivers it to the Project Liberty cellulosic ethanol plant. Without the BCAP program and contract from Poet-DSM, Gunderson says, the stover wouldn’t get harvested.
Filed under: Environmental & Industrial, Agriculture Act of 2014, Agriculture Energy Coalition, BioBased Markets Program, Biomass Crop Assistance Program, Biomass Magazine, biorefinery, Energy Title Programs, Farm Bill, Lloyd Ritter, renewable chemical, Rural Energy for America Program, University of Georgia, USDA