ENERGY TITLE IN FARM BILL DELIVERS EFFICIENCIES, NEW DEVELOPMENT
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The Agricultural Act of 2014 continues a suite of renewable energy programs in Title IX.
Known as the Energy Title, it is a relatively new addition to omnibus farm bill legislation, first appearing in the Farm Security and Rural Investment Act of 2002 and expanded by the Food, Conservation, and Energy Act of 2008. The roots of these programs, however, go at least as far back as the Agricultural Adjustment Act of 1938, which directed the Secretary of Agriculture to conduct research and development on new scientific, chemical, and technical uses for agricultural commodities and byproducts.
Many a first thought on the topic of energy and agriculture is of the Renewable Fuels Standard (RFS) and the production of ethanol for blending in the national transportation fuel supply. The RFS, however, is not a farm bill provision or a substantive part of the farm bill debate; it does not fall directly under the jurisdiction of the House or Senate Agriculture Committees. The RFS made changes to the Clean Air Act via two energy bills, the Energy Policy Act of 2005 and the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007 (more information on the RFS can be found here).
The Farm Bill's energy programs can be grouped into three basic varieties: programs with direct assistance to farmers or rural businesses; (2) programs that assist facilities such as biorefineries; and (3) programs to assist with research, development, education and marketing regarding bioenergy and renewable chemicals. The programs do not have permanent authority, expiring with the sunset dates in the bill unless extended or reauthorized by Congress, and they do not have permanent baseline in the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) estimates which means funds must be found to pay for the programs in this title. CBO estimates that Congress provided about $625 million in mandatory funds (i.e., not subject to the annual appropriations process for funding) energy programs over the five-year life of the new farm bill (fiscal years 2014 to 2018).