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US Senate to Vote on Farm Bill Monday

The Senate agreed Thursday morning to end debate on the farm bill and proceed to a final vote – invoking cloture on a vote of 75 to 22. In remarks ahead of the vote – Senate Ag Committee Chair Debbie Stabenow noted that the bill includes 38 amendments approved by the Senate last year and 14 added in debate this year. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid announced the vote on final passage of the farm bill will be held Monday at 5:30 Eastern time. The Senate version of the five year plan includes many of the energy related programs and an energy title.

The House of Representatives is tentatively scheduled to take up its version the week of June 17. Leadership of the Ag Committees are optimistic that the bill could be conferenced in July and a new five year plan in place before the August recess.

Both bills have energy titles — the Senate version increases spending on the Energy Title by $780 million over ten years.  Both the Senate and House include a biobased markets program, and both versions ask the Secretary to develop a three-tiered REAP application process (for projects costing up to $80K, 80-2200K, and over 200K) and structure the comprehensiveness of the information required according to the cost of the program.

As for the Biomass Crop Assistance Program, the House version eliminates the prohibition on animal, food or yard waste, and algae — and strikes the authorization to “assist agricultural and forest land owners and operators with collection, harvest, storage, and transportation of eligible material for use in a biomass conversion facility.”  There will be negotiations over this program including use of BCAP funds for Conservation Reserve Program lands.  Both versions appear to have eliminated the Forest Biomass for Energy Program, but they each maintain some funding for the Community Wood Energy Program. 

These energy programs are minor in the context of federal spending – and represent an expenditure of about $0.26 per capita nationwide.