By Luke Geiver
Before the U.S. House of Representatives Agriculture Committee concluded a series of hearings on programs potentially affected by a new Farm Bill, the Subcommittee on Conservation, Energy and Forestry listened to testimony on the Biomass Crop Assistance Program and other biomass-related programs set to expire.
Ryan Stroschein, director of the Agriculture Energy Coalition based out of Washington D.C., told the committee about the need to continue BCAP as part of the Energy Title because it's the only program of its kind. "Without this program, the agricultural community is reluctant to embrace these crops and forest residues due to the risk involved," he said. Stroschein told the committee that if national investments and policy commitments to biomass programs continue, economic and job growth will too.
Jerry Taylor, president and CEO of MFA Oil Co. and co-founder of MFA Oil Biomass LLC, also touched on the importance of continuing BCAP. "In 2008, we began laying the groundwork to expand our energy services and take on America's most important and most difficult renewable energy sector--biomass," Taylor said. Since 2008, the company has leveraged BCAP funding opportunities in partnership with energy crop developer Aloterra LLC to create an integrated energy crop development strategy that includes roughly 225 family farmers, harvesting and equipment practices, and expansion plans. But because of BCAP funding uncertainty linked to the pending Farm Bill redraft, MFA has questioned its level of investment in renewable energy. "BCAP, if reauthorized in the 2012 Farm Bill, will be viewed in the future as a sleeper program that changed the trajectory of renewable energy forever," Taylor said.
Steve Reinford, owner and operator of Reinford Farms Inc. in Mifflintown, Penn., spoke about his experience with his on-farm anaerobic digestion system, which powers the farm and roughly 100 homes.
For Rep. Glenn Thompson, chairman of the House Agriculture Committee's Subcommittee on Conservation, Energy and Forestry, the goal of hearing the testimony was to help create a better and more financially efficient Farm Bill. "We aim to craft legislation that will assist the nation in meeting the rising energy demand, and forestry provisions that promote healthier and better-managed federal, state and private forests," he said. "The agricultural sector will have to do its part as the nation works to decrease the debt."
Along with Stroschein, Taylor and Reinford, the panel also included testimony from Jim Greenwood, president and CEO of Biotechnology Industry Organization and Gary Haer, chairman of the National Biodiesel Board.