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Energy Programs Defended at Farm Bill Hearing

The Senate Committee on Agriculture held its first Farm Bill hearing of 2012, which focused on the benefits of energy programs in rural America, as well as strategies to addressing economic development programs for the next Farm Bill.

ERG has written the Senate Committee leadership, asking them to retain an Energy Title within the next farm bill and provide the necessary funding for the programs.

Sen. Stabenow has said she expects to use the Farm Bill framework that was agreed to last fall as the starting point for constructing the 2012 Farm Bill. Under that framework, the Energy Title in the Farm Bill was retained but very little mandatory funding was made available for its programs. This would leave the fate of these relatively new programs to an ever-shrinking and uncertain pool of discretionary funding.

Renewable energy production including biomass has been a major driver of the U.S. farm economy over the last decade, helping bring net farm income to a projected all-time high of $104 billion in 2011. The USDA can play a critical role in helping the ag and forest sectors capitalize on these emerging opportunities, and the Farm Bill is a primary vehicle for authorizing programs and funding to support these efforts.

PA Congressmen Glenn Thompson and Tim Holden are also chair and ranking member of the US House Agriculture Committee’s subcommittee on Conservation and Energy, and will have a big say in what happens in the House. More…