Today, Rep. Glenn 'GT' Thompson, Chairman of the House Agriculture Committee's Subcommittee on Conservation, Energy, and Forestry, held a public hearing to review energy and forestry programs within the subcommittee's jurisdiction. This is a continuation of the series of audit hearings the Agriculture Committee is holding to review programs in advance of writing the next farm bill.
The Agriculture Committee included an energy title for the first time in the 2002 Farm Bill to foster the development of more feedstocks for renewable energy development in rural America. The 2008 Farm Bill created several new programs while expanding existing farm bill programs. The programs in Title IX were designed to promote a transition from corn-based ethanol to other advanced biofuels such as cellulosic ethanol. The two most prominent programs in the energy title are the Biomass Crop Assistance Program and the Rural Energy for America program. There is no budget baseline for the energy title beyond the conclusion of the next farm bill.
The forestry title has been a part of farm bills since 1990. The Agriculture Committee shares jurisdiction over forestry matters with the Committee on Natural Resources, which is responsible for forests on public lands. The Agriculture Committee is responsible for forestry in general, as well as Weeks Act National Forests. All forestry programs are permanently authorized. Most of the forestry programs have spending levels set at "such sums as necessary," and are subject to annual appropriations.
"The farm program audits provide us a detailed, comprehensive view of these programs to ensure that each title is being carried out in a manner consistent with its purpose. In a difficult fiscal environment, we must make efficient use of taxpayer dollars while also making certain that our farmers, ranchers, and forest interests remain competitive and are able to offer an affordable supply of both domestic food and energy. The information shared today brings us a step closer to understanding the committee's priorities as we draft these new titles and move forward with the next farm bill," said Chairman Glenn 'GT' Thompson (R-PA).
"The energy title of the 2008 farm bill was crafted to encourage a move toward advanced biofuels to ensure that Agriculture will play an important role in moving this country toward energy independence. As we begin to discuss reauthorization of these programs, as well as forestry title programs that promote the efficient use of woody biomass and sustain healthy, diverse and productive forests, we must all work together to make certain taxpayer dollars are being spent wisely and as intended," said Ranking Member Tim Holden (D-PA).