Farm bill funding needed for rural job growth
Farm Bill Energy Title programs, such as the Rural Energy for America Program (REAP), Biomass Crop Assistance Program (BCAP), Biorefinery Assistance Program (BAP) and Biobased Markets Program (Biopreferred) have helped create jobs and economic growth in rural America, develop new agricultural markets, and improve farmers' and ranchers' energy self-sufficiency.
The Agriculture Energy Coalition today urged Congress to begin work on a new five-year Farm Bill with strong mandatory funding for energy programs. The American Taxpayer Relief Act of 2012 extended the 2008 Farm Bill without funding for energy title programs.
"Farm energy programs have paid a tremendous return for rural Americans, in terms of new jobs, investments in new energy efficiency and bioenergy technology, and new biobased products," said Lloyd Ritter, Agriculture Energy Coalition co-director. "Economic growth and job opportunities in rural America are at risk without a renewal of funding for these effective programs."
Farm energy programs have:
• Assisted 6,600 projects, employing 15,000 people, generate or save more than 7.3 billion kilowatt hours of electricity - enough to power 680,000 U.S. homes annually;
• Backed advanced biorefineries in 9 states in negotiating $750 million in private construction loans;
• Helped more than 860 growers and landowners in 188 counties across 12 states put nearly 59,000 underutilized acres back into production;
• Improved consumer education and choice by labeling 900 certified biobased products;
• Identified more than 25,000 biobased products made by 3,100 companies that employ nearly 100,000 people;
• Provided matching funding to 46 research and development projects in 24 states.
Ritter added, "Within the next decade, farm energy programs could generate as many as 700,000 jobs and $88.5 billion in economic activity for rural America. Last year, House and Senate Agriculture Committee leaders reached bipartisan agreement to provide strong funding for the programs and continue the progress already achieved. We urge Congress to renew that agreement."