House committee passes 2018 Farm Bill

By Erin Voegele | April 18, 2018

On April 18, the House Agriculture Committee held a markup hearing and passed its version of the 2018 Farm Bill, officially titled the Agriculture and Nutrition Act of 2018, or H.R. 2. The vote was along party lines, with committee republicans voting in favor of the bill and committee democrats voting in opposition. The bill will now be considered by the House.

In a statement, House Ranking Member Collin Peterson, D-Minn., criticized the legislation, calling it “a flawed bill that is the result of a bad nontransparent process.” Cuts to Energy Title programs are among the specific provisions of the bill that Peterson criticized. “…$500 million from the Rural Energy for America Program was eliminated as well as killing the energy title,” he said in a statement.

A draft of the 2018 Farm Bill was first released April 12. The bill reauthorizes several bioenergy and biofuel programs, but provides them with only discretionary funding.

A summary of the bill released by the committee on April 18 shows Subtitle E of the legislation includes reauthorizations and discretionary funding for several Energy Title programs.

Section 6402 reauthorizes the USDA’s BioPreferred Program through 2023 and authorizes appropriations of $2 million per fiscal year. Text included in the section also prohibits other federal agencies from placing limitations on the procurement of wood products.

Section 6403 reauthorizes the Biorefinery, Renewable Chemical and Biobased Product Manufacturing Assistance Program through 2023 and authorizes appropriations of $75 million per fiscal year. The legislation also amends the program by expanding eligibility of eligible projects.

Section 6404 reauthorizes the Repowering Assistance Program and authorizes appropriations of $10 million per fiscal year. The bill also limits payments to an eligible commodity.

Section 6405 reauthorizes the Bioenergy Program for Advanced Biofuels and authorizes appropriations of $50 million per fiscal year.

Section 6406 reauthorizes the Biodiesel Fuel Education Program through 2023 and authorizes appropriations of $2 million per fiscal year.

Section 6407 reauthorizes the Rural Energy for America Program and authorizes appropriations of $45 million per fiscal year.

Section 6408 repeals the Rural Energy Self-Sufficiency Initiative.

Section 6409 reauthorizes the Feedstock Flexibility Program through 2023.

Section 6410 reauthorizes the Biomass Crop Assistance Program through 2023 and authorizes appropriations of $25 million per fiscal year.

A woody biomass-related program is also reauthorized under the Forestry Title of the bill.

Section 8106 amends the Community Wood Energy and Wood Innovation Program to include public and private facilities. The bill also establishes a priority to projects that use low-value, low-quality wood. Appropriations of $25 million is authorized for each fiscal year 2019 through 2023.

The Agriculture Energy Coalition is urging members of Congress to enact a farm bill that not only reauthorizes Energy Title programs, but also provides them with mandatory funding. “The House Agriculture Committee has a long history of working in a bipartisan manner to support farmers, ranchers, foresters and rural businesses,” said Lloyd Ritter, director of the Agriculture Energy Coalition. “There is strong bipartisan support for the renewable energy and energy efficiency programs in the farm bill, which have a demonstrated record of success in boosting the economic health of rural communities.

“The Agriculture Energy Coalition greatly appreciates the support expressed by members of the Committee to keep the energy title intact, to further improve the programs, to provide the farm bill energy programs strong mandatory funding, and to continue incentivizing new biobased innovations and technologies—aspects that are lacking in the draft proposal,” Ritter continued. “The coalition’s members look forward to working with Congress to pass a farm bill that reauthorizes the energy title programs with appropriate mandatory funding.”