U.S. Senators Amy Klobuchar and Al Franken along with a bipartisan group of 12 other senators called for a strong energy title in the final version of the Farm Bill. In a letter to the Chair and Ranking Member of the Senate Agriculture Committee, the senators highlighted the important role programs like the Rural Energy for America Program (REAP) and the Biomass Crop Assistance Program (BCAP) have in supporting jobs in rural communities and encouraging the development of energy efficiency and renewable energy production from wind, solar, biomass and biofuels in farms and rural businesses. Klobuchar is a member of the Farm Bill Conference Committee, which is responsible for crafting the final version of the bill, and Franken helped write the energy section of the Farm Bill.
"The Senate's bipartisan energy investments are a small fraction of total Farm Bill outlays and represent an important, and growing, component of the agricultural economy," the senators said in the letter. "We strongly urge you to ensure that the Senate-passed energy title, with the full $900 million in mandatory funding, is included within the conference agreement."
Klobuchar is a member of the Senate Agriculture Committee and has long supported an increased role for renewable fuels in the U.S energy supply. In the 2013 Farm Bill Klobuchar worked to include an amendment in the Senate-passed Farm Bill to provide additional funds for the Rural Energy for America (REAP) program.
Franken, a member of the Senate Energy Committee, helped write the energy section of the bill, which will produce jobs and growth in Minnesota's agriculture energy sector. He has also worked hard to preserve investments in federal programs that provide beginning farmers and ranchers with education and training, access to credit, and access to affordable land. And he successfully fought to preserve the federal sugar program by voting to ensure that vital protections remain in place for sugar growers. The sugar industry contributes thousands of jobs and billions of dollars to the economies of Minnesota and the region.
The full text of the letter is below:
Dear Chairwoman Stabenow and Ranking Member Cochran:
Thank you for your continued leadership in moving the Farm Bill. As a final bill is written, we urge you to advocate vigorously for the adoption of the Senate's energy title, particularly the full $900 million in mandatory funding for its "core" programs. Farm energy programs serve agriculture, rural communities and the entire nation by providing jobs, farm income and environmental benefits.
The Senate Agriculture, Nutrition, and Forestry Committee passed this title on a strong bipartisan basis, including mandatory funding, with only one strengthening amendment. The mandatory energy funding included within the Senate's Farm Bill represents less than one percent of total Farm Bill spending and represents a decrease in annual mandatory funding as compared to the 2008 Farm Bill. The Senate's bipartisan energy investments are responsible and well-balanced and should be kept in the conference agreement.
The energy title's core programs are very cost-effective job creators, accounting for more than tens of thousands of jobs saved or created over the last decade. They set conditions that allow farmers and innovative businesses to grow the rural economy, while also improving the environment and making America more energy independent.
For example, the Rural Energy for America Program (REAP), supports nearly every form of renewable energy, as well as energy efficiency on farms, ranches, and at rural small businesses. REAP has funded projects in every state and benefits all agricultural sectors.
The Biomass Crop Assistance Program (BCAP) partners with hundreds of farmers across 12 states to develop next-generation energy crops that produce sustainable biofuels, power generation, renewable chemicals, and biobased products. BCAP uniquely develops a new homegrown source of energy that can also provide conservation and water quality benefits while producing new farm income.
The Biorefinery Assistance Program (BAP) provides investment certainty for cutting-edge biorefineries that produce advanced biofuels from non-food sources. And, with important policy changes included within the Senate bill, this kind of investment certainty would be extended to the promising renewable chemicals manufacturing sector. In addition, the Biobased Markets program is expanding small business markets by leveraging the federal government's purchasing power to acquire thousands of new, sustainable domestic industrial bioproducts.
We are fully aware of the budget constraints placed upon agricultural committee leaders as a new Farm Bill is written. However, the Senate's bipartisan energy investments are a small fraction of total Farm Bill outlays and represent an important, and growing, component of the agricultural economy. We strongly urge you to ensure that the Senate-passed energy title, with the full $900 million in mandatory funding, is included within the conference agreement.
Thank you very much for your continued support.