Eight U.S. Senators have sent a letter to the U.S. Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry urging it to include a strong energy title in the current farm bill it is developing. A collection of environmental, renewable energy and agriculture advocacy organizations led by the Agriculture Energy Coalition (AgEC) fired off its own letter in support.
On Oct. 30, Sen. Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., chair of the Agriculture Committee, opened the first meeting House-Senate Farm Bill conference committee. In a statement, Stabenow set out the committee's priorities as crop insurance, subsidy reform, food aid and soil conservation efforts. There was no specific mention of the energy title.
The letter from the eight senators, which includes the signatures of noted energy title supporters Sens. Al Franken, D-Minn., and Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, pushed for a number of energy programs by name, including the Rural Energy for America Program, which 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.
The supporting letter from the AgEC urges the Agriculture Committee to adopt a five-year farm bill that includes $900 million in mandatory funding for the energy title.
Last summer, the U.S. House and Senate wrangled with different farm bills, but no legislation made it out of Congress. The 2008 farm bill expired Oct. 1 with no successor in place.