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Senate Ag Committee Restores 2018 Farm Bill Energy Title Funding

  • Wednesday, 20 June 2018 15:41

Ethanol Producer Magazine

June 13, 2018

By Erin Voegele

On June 13, the Senate ag committee approved its version of the 2018 Farm Bill with bipartisan support. The legislation includes an amendment offered by Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., that restores mandatory funding to Farm Bill Energy Title programs. The legislation, officially titled the Agriculture Improvement Act of 2018, will now be considered by the full Senate.

Klobuchar offered the amendment during a June 13 committee meeting held on Farm Bill legislation. The amendment aims to restore mandatory funding for Energy Title programs to 2014 levels.

“In the 2014 Farm Bill, I successfully pushed for a strong Energy Title with funding necessary to continue to support homegrown renewable fuels…which support thousands of jobs and millions of dollars in economic growth,” Klobuchar said.

Committee Chairman Pat Roberts, R-Kan., noted that some of the Energy Title programs impacted by Klobuchar’s amendment include the Biomass Research and Development Initiative; the Biobased Markets Program; the Biorefinery, Renewable Chemical and Product Manufacturing Assistance Program; the Bioenergy Program for Advanced Biofuels; and the Biomass Crop Assistance Program.

Ranking Member Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., spoke out in support of the amendment and Klobuchar’s leadership, calling the legislation a jobs amendment. “It’s about the rural bio economy,” she said. “It’s about jobs and rural America. These program have leveraged more than $5 billion in private investments since 2009.”

The Agriculture Energy Coalition has spoken out to applaud Klobuchar for offering the amendment, noting it was cosponsored by a bipartisan group of committee members, including Sens. Tina Smith, D-Minn.; Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa; Joni Ernst, R-Iowa; Deb Fischer, R-Neb.; Michael Bennet, D-Colo.; Heidi Heitkamp, D-N.D.; and Bob Casey, R-Pa.

“The Coalition thanks all of the Senators for their strong, bipartisan leadership on this amendment,” said Lloyd Ritter, director of the AgEC. “The farm bill energy title programs support more than 1.5 million U.S. workers who manufacture biobased products. The programs have helped rural business, farms and ranches secure more than $5 billion in private investment to adopt new renewable energy technologies and generate economic opportunities.

“We look forward to working with the Senate and House to ensure that the final farm bill includes an Energy Title, with stable mandatory funding and necessary updates for the vital programs.”

Also during the Farm Bill meeting, committee members discussed the Renewable Fuel Standard and the U.S. EPA’s misuse of small refinery hardship waivers.

Klobuchar stressed the RFS is critically important to Minnesota, and cited recent reports that indicate the EPA has granted dozens of small refinery waivers to large refining companies. “These actions hurt not only biofuel producers, but farmers across the U.S. at a time when farm income is at its lowest since 2006,” she said. “The secretary of agriculture has deemed these waivers as demand destruction for biofuels.”

According to Klobuchar, the EPA has historically granted between six and eight waivers per year for extraordinary reasons. “But, recent reports have noted that the EPA has already issued 25 disproportionate hardship waivers this year.”

Grassley cited news reports that EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt said in Kansas yesterday that he has the authority to reallocate gallons offset by the waivers. He stressed that President Trump has repeatedly promised to meet the 15 billion gallon statutory renewable volume obligation (RVO) for conventional biofuels. However, the EPA’s misuse of waivers has effectively cut the RVO to 13.8 billion gallons. Grassley also spoke about the agency’s proposed 2019 RVOs, which are expected to be released soon. He said we don’t know what the EPA will propose for 2019, but stressed the EPA better keeps Trump’s promises with regard to the RFS.

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