CHICAGO, May 22 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Today Congress overrode the President's veto of the Food, Conservation and Energy Act of 2008, also known as the Farm Bill. The new legislation includes a significant clean energy development component -- improved and new programs for wind power, advanced biofuels, energy efficiency, solar power and new energy crops for cleaner energy from America's farmers, ranchers and rural businesses. "We thank the Agriculture Committee leadership for their support of a stronger Energy Title in the face of an extremely difficult budget environment," said Howard Learner, Executive Director of the Environmental Law and Policy Center. "These programs are good for all Americans -- they are a win-win-win for our energy security, environment, and economy." The new Energy Title received $1.04 billion in mandatory appropriations in the 2008 Farm Bill. The Farm Bill also includes $348 million in new tax credits to spur production of advanced cellulosic biofuels to help cut our nation's dependence on imported oil. While the Farm Bill's overall funding falls short of need, it is a good start towards addressing pressing national energy concerns. The improved and new clean energy programs in the Energy Title include:
-- Rural Energy for America Program (REAP). REAP funding has been more than doubled and improves the Farm Bill's successful "Section 9006" clean energy development program for locally-owned wind power, energy efficiency, solar energy, and other clean energy projects ($255 million over four years).
-- For the first time, REAP now includes Energy Technical Assistance funding to help farmers save money, improve margins and reduce fuel use.
-- Biorefinery Assistance. Grants and loan guarantees to help build advanced biorefineries; critical to jumpstart advanced biofuels production ($320 million).
-- Biomass Crop Assistance Program (BCAP). A first-ever energy crop program to help encourage farmers to grow sustainable energy crops such as switchgrass ($70 million).
-- Repowering Assistance. A new program, Rural Repowering, assists boilers at biofuels plants to burn energy crops instead of coal, cutting pollution and creating new markets for energy crops ($35 million).
-- Advanced Biofuels. Production incentives for advanced biofuels ($300 million).
-- Biomass Research and Development. New investments for biomass fuel and power research and development ($118 million). The Energy Title will also improve the federal biobased markets procurement and biodiesel fuel education programs. The legislation also includes several other programs for which Congress could not provide funding in the Farm Bill, such as a new program to curb fertilizer costs and fossil fuel burning by using wind and other renewable energy instead. Supporters of these programs now look to the Appropriations Committees for potential funding. The new Farm Bill also includes $348 million in new tax credits to help jumpstart environmentally preferable cellulosic ethanol production. "America needs new domestic, sustainable energy. Leadership of the Senate Finance and House Ways and Means Committees should be commended for providing these new clean energy incentives," said Andy Olsen, Senior Policy Advocate for ELPC. "In all, these new programs are a good start," said John Moore, Senior Attorney for ELPC. "There is much more that can yet be done to help solve rural America's energy challenges, and we urge Congress to strengthen these programs with additional funding in the coming years, before the next Farm Bill." For additional information on the Farm Bill's Energy Title programs, go to www.farmenergy.org.
SOURCE Environmental Law & Policy Center