Early indications are that energy programs such as the Rural Energy for America Program, the Biomass Crop Assistance Program and the Biorefinery Assistance Program may be at risk. That's the conclusion of the Environment and Energy Study Institute following hearings held by the House Agriculture Committee in preparation for the next farm bill. The EEsI says at a time when job creation is at a standstill across the United States and oil import costs are soaring and driving up costs for agricultural producers and rural businesses, these programs are the kinds of public investments that can help get the economy moving again in an environmentally sustainable direction.
"Killing REAP leaves agriculture and rural businesses at the mercy of high oil and electricity prices," said Andy Olsen, Environmental Law and Policy Center Senior Policy Advocate. "The House could not be sending a clearer signal that they don't care about rising on-farm energy prices. This 'do-nothing" approach strikes at the heart of America's 'can do' attitude."
For example, according to the Environmental Law and Policy Center, each year more farmers and rural businesses have used REAP, with demand far outpacing the available funding. REAP has helped reduce energy costs for poultry producers, converted livestock wastes to clean heat and power on dairy farms with anaerobic digesters, and financed local wind energy projects for rural electric cooperatives. Each of these projects have supported local job creation and rural business development and helped make these agricultural producers and businesses more competitive.
"Eliminating the BCAP and REAP energy programs today is like leaving your wedding before you say 'I do,'" said Steve Flick, President of the Show Me Energy Cooperative in Missouri.
EESI and ELPC will be hosting a briefing about the REAP program on Capitol Hill on Tuesday, July 19. They encourage producers to contact their Congressional delegation and ask them to attend the briefings, which will be held at 10 a.m. in the Longworth House Office Building and repeated at 2 p.m. in the Russell Senate Office Building.