In a 66 to 27 vote Monday, the U.S. Senate passed a comprehensive farm bill that, among many other provisions, includes funding for the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Rural Energy for America Program (REAP).
REAP 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 Senate-passed bill, which totals a whopping $955 billion over 10 years, includes $68.2 million in mandatory REAP funding and $20 million in appropriated REAP funding annually for fiscal years 2014 through 2018.
The U.S. House of Representatives is now tasked with taking on its own version of a farm bill, which passed in a committee in May – without REAP funding included. If the House floor passes the bill, the differences between the House and Senate versions will need to be ironed out.
Congress has not passed a farm bill since 2008. Last year, efforts to pass similar legislation failed, with the 2008 version being extended to Sept. 30.
Lloyd Ritter, co-director of the Agriculture Energy Coalition, has applauded the Senate for including REAP funding in its newest bill iteration.
"Farm bill renewable energy and energy efficiency programs have a solid track record in supporting growth in agriculture, manufacturing and new employment opportunities in rural America,’ Ritter said in a statement. ‘They ensure that critical investments are made in agriculture energy development, which brings energy security and environmental benefits to the entire United States. We urge the House of Representatives to include the same funding of farm bill energy programs in its version of the legislation."