Today, U.S. Sens. Tom Harkin (D-IA) Al Franken (D-MN) introduced the energy legislation to be included in the 2013 Farm Bill, which includes several provisions expected to create jobs throughout Minnesota and the country.
Sens. Harkin and Franken's Rural Energy Investment Act will help farmers, ranchers, and rural communities by encouraging the growth of agricultural energy technologies, including advanced biofuels, biogas, biomass, and renewable energies.
"The 2002 farm bill included an energy title for the first time to send a message that our farms, ranches, and rural communities are on the front lines of producing new energy sources such as bioenergy and windpower," said Sen. Harkin. "These energy programs are essential for expanding clean energy supplies, which also spur rural economic development and job creation. The tradition of providing strong support for an energy title in a farm bill must continue today, so for that reason I am hopeful that this measure will serve as a marker as the 2013 bill moves through the U.S. Senate."
"Advancing our agricultural energy technologies is good for our farmers and economy, and it improves our overall energy independence and security," said Sen. Franken. "This legislation will create jobs and play a critical role in cutting costs for our farmers and producers and will help them with the adoption of energy efficiency and renewable energy technologies. I look forward to incorporating it into this year's Farm Bill."
The Rural Energy Investment Act also contains several programs that will specifically help Iowa, including:
-The Rural Energy for America Program (REAP), which was included in the 2012 Farm Bill that passed the Senate. The program helps agriculture producers and businesses in rural areas invest in energy efficiency and renewable energy projects so they can cut energy bills and earn additional income by selling the energy they produce.
-The Biorefinery Assistance Program (BAP), which assists in the development of new and emerging technologies for advanced biofuels through support for the construction and retrofitting of biorefineries for the production of advanced biofuels.
-The Biomass Crop Assistance Program (BCAP), which provides financial assistance to owners and operators of agricultural land and non-industrial private forest land who wish to establish, produce, and deliver biomass feedstock to energy producers.
-The Biomass Research and Development Initiative (BRDI), which provides competitive funding in the form of grants, contracts, and financial assistance for research, development, and demonstration of technologies and processes leading to significant commercial production of biofuels, biobased energy, feedstocks, and products--including the development of cost-competitive cellulosic ethanol.
Since 2009, thousands of direct and indirect jobs have been created or saved in rural areas by the Farm Bill's energy programs that benefitted almost 12,000 rural small businesses, agricultural producers, and advanced biofuel refineries across the country. Continued growth in new agriculture, manufacturing, and high tech jobs are at great risk without continued Federal investment.
A strong energy section of the Farm Bill has the support of a coalition of over 100 agriculture and energy organizations.
Sen. Franken and Harkin's bill is cosponsored by Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), Maria Cantwell (D-Wash), Tim Johnson (D-S. Dak.), Sen. William "Mo" Cowan (D-Mass.), Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii), Tammy Baldwin (D-Wisc.), and Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii.).