House Republicans Eliminate Funding for USDA Clean Energy Programs

The House Appropriations Committee last week erased the budgets for two clean energy-related programs run by the US Department of Agriculture (USDA).

The Republican-led committee approved a bill that significantly cuts funding used to help farmers and rural small businesses buy renewable energy systems such as biogas plants, which turn ag waste into energy.

The Committee voted to cut funding for the Rural Energy for America Program (REAP) from $75 million to $1.3 million. It  provides grants and loan guarantees for the purchase of renewable energy systems.

The program is a pet project of Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack who announced in April that it could be used to install 10,000 blender pumps for ethanol nationwide in the next five years.

House Republicans had planned to scrap the program entirely,  but Rep. Marcy Kaptur (D-OH) sponsored an amendment that saved enough funding to keep the program alive in the short-term. 

They did cut all 2012 funding for the Biomass Crop Assistance Program (BCAP), which pays farmers for producing non-foodstock crops for conversion into biofuels and biomass-generated energy. 

“BCAP is just beginning to take shape in transforming rural America’s contribution to the nation’s renewable energy supply,” a group of biofuel and agriculture advocates wrote in a letter to committee leadership. “BCAP provides critical assistance to help farmers and foresters plant and collect next generation, purpose grown energy crops and other biomass that are key to ensuring the near-term commercialization of low-carbon advanced biofuels, power, and products.”

Biomass crops are controversial because they feed the "fuel vs food" dilemma. Should we be using our farmland to produce fuel crops?

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Comments on “House Republicans Eliminate Funding for USDA Clean Energy Programs”

  1. Sam Booher

    I offer that the woody BioMass for electricity and food for fuel were a waste of Federal Funds, destroyed soil, polluted the air and wasted water. I support renewable energy when it is solar and wind energy, but incineration of BioMass
    to produce energy only made speculators rich before they declared bankrupcy and waked away rich.

  2. Cascadienne

    Right on! Taking crop land for producing more fuel does nothing to promote real sustainability. Having more fuel reduces the motivation to give up cars and support mass transit and local economies. The BCAP program probably helped Monsanto or ADM more than anyone else. Their GMO seeds are a disastrous development in the history of food production.

  3. ECO-NUT

    USDA-FSA screwed up the 2009 pilot program so bad that only big corporate conglomerate pellet and paper mill industries benefited. Those industries have all the Washington lobbyists and influence. The final 2010 BCAP rule leaves them out, so now that the program benefits “real” rural farms, lawmakers have no interest. President Obama speaks on renewable energy as a national priority, but only if it benefits G.E. and Foreign owned PV(Solar)Companies. They get richer and the small American farmer and forester starves. Meanwhile we are sending $15 billion in 2011 to support agriculture in Afghanistan and continue importing oil from our enemies in the Middle East. Whats wrong with this picture, America?


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