In a letter to Senate and House ag leaders, the Advanced Ethanol Council (AEC) urged the current farm bill discussion to include extensions and smart modifications to a number of important rural energy initiatives currently being administered by the Department of Agriculture (USDA). 

Specifically, AEC Executive Director Brooke Coleman pressed lawmakers on three specific provisions:

• Extend the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Loan Guarantee program for biorefinery projects, but improve critical provisions of the program to more effectively facilitate participation by lending institutions.

• Support USDA’s efforts to build out ethanol refueling infrastructure via the Rural Energy for America Program (REAP) to allow ethanol to compete in the market based on price. This will facilitate market access that is critical to the ongoing development and deployment of advanced ethanol fuels.

• Reform the Biomass Crop Assistance Program (BCAP) to increase cost effectiveness and better encourage and “de-risk” energy crop production for the advanced biofuel sector, including efforts to preserve the environmental benefits of land coming out of conservation programs by incenting sustainable energy crop production.

“The next generation of the U.S. ethanol industry is just beginning to break ground on first commercial projects across the country, and while the Energy Title currently accounts for less than 1 percent of total budgetary outlays for the 2008 farm bill, many of these programs will be critical to existing and future advanced ethanol development projects,” wrote Coleman.

Additionally, members of the AEC expressed interest in working with lawmakers to modify the Repowering Assistance program to help existing biorefining operations deploy advanced ethanol technologies and feedstock utilization.  Many emerging advanced ethanol technologies will provide value to existing ethanol production facilities by diversifying feedstocks and improving efficiencies as well as creating new opportunities as stand alone facilities. 

“We are aware that the funding available for the new farm bill will be reduced significantly,” wrote Coleman. “That said, we look forward to thinking creatively with you about comprehensive solutions that cut cost but continue to provide meaningful value to an emerging advanced ethanol industry.”