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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