Although U.S. representatives began debating a 2013 Farm Bill on the House floor this week, the bill will not include a recently proposed amendment to pump mandatory funds into renewable energy.
Introduced by Rep. Braley, D-Iowa, with support from several other Democrats, the amendment aimed to provide more than $1 billion in mandatory funding over the next five years for Energy Title programs, including the Rural Energy for America Program (REAP). However, the Rules Committee voted not to include the Braley provision in the House Farm Bill.
The Agriculture Energy Coalition has applauded Braley and his amendment supporters for trying to guarantee funding for Energy Title programs, but the group is not surprised by the House bill's lack of renewables funding.
"House Agriculture Committee leadership has been very reluctant to provide funding for these programs, and it's clear that the bill will move through the House without this funding," Ryan Stroschein, co-director of the coalition, tells NAW.
Earlier this month, the U.S. Senate passed its 2013 Farm Bill, and the legislation includes $68.2 million in mandatory funding for REAP. The program provides grants and loans to help rural businesses and agricultural producers invest in energy efficiency and renewable energy initiatives, including solar and small wind projects.
Congress has not passed a Farm Bill since 2008, but Stroschein says the fact that a version made its way through the Senate and another version is currently on the House floor indicates a Farm Bill will likely pass. If so, the House and Senate versions will go to a committee in order to iron out their differences.
"The House will pass its version of the bill, and I believe it will get to a conference,’ Stroschein says. ‘There will be some difficult issues to work out in that conference, but I think there's a good chance we'll get a Farm Bill at some point in this calendar year."
He adds that the coalition will continue pushing for mandatory Energy Title funding.
"We have been working very closely with allies and supporters in the Senate to ensure their bill contained robust funding – which it does – and we'll be working with them as this bill moves into conference to ensure these programs are adequately funded going forward," he explains.