The House Appropriations Subcommittee has marked up the Fiscal Year 2012 Agriculture Appropriations Bill. If enacted, the bill would freeze the popular Rural Energy for American Program and the Biomass Crop Assistance program. It would also cap the Bioenergy Program for Advanced Biofuels.
REAP is said to be the only federal program successfully helping farmers and rural small businesses fight high energy costs with renewable energy systems and energy efficiency. Andy Olsen, Senior Policy Advocate at the environmental Law and Policy Center, says the House could not be sending a clearer signal that they don't care about rising on-farm energy prices.
"What we really should be doing is increasing investment in REAP and rural America," Olsen said. "In the same proposal we see that the Rural Utilities Service funding will be increased by $500 million, which is more than the cuts to REAP and BCA programs. So they can certainly find the money to support energy, they just choose not to support renewable energy and not to support energy efficiency that helps agricultural producers control rising energy costs."
REAP has been around since the 2003 Farm Bill and supports private investment in a wide range of clean energy technologies such as manure digesters, biomass, wind, solar, geothermal, and more. REAP also supports energy efficiency improvements such as modern lighting, pumps, motors, refrigeration and more.
"All agricultural producers and all Americans benefit when we have cleaner, homegrown energy," Olsen said. "We've already see with the thousands of projects that have been supported by REAP that it helps farmers modernize their operations and develop new income streams from renewable energy. So it's a win-win-win for rural economic development, for the farm sector, for our environment, and for national and energy security."
Earlier, Congress cut this year's REAP funding by 25% as part of the recent budget deal. Olsen says this action would be a far more serious setback to energy independence and rural economic development. He encourages producers to contact members of Congress and urge them to reconsider the choices in this bill. Full committee mark up is scheduled for May 31.