Pro Farmer Editors
Senators Tom Harkin (D-IA), John Thune (R-SD), Tim Johnson (D-SD), and Jon Tester (D-MT) introduced an amendment (#397) to the economic recovery legislation tonight that would move $1.14 billion from the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) into energy programs at the U.S. Department of Agriculture (UDSA).. The measure will be voted on tonight.
Currently, the Senate jobs bill invests a total of $78 billion in energy, including energy tax measures.. While the senators believe these investments are crucial to accelerating the nation's energy transition, they believe the bill fails to recognize the importance and value of energy programs at USDA. The Senate bill currently includes $250 million for USDA energy programs, compared with approximately $40 billion for DOE energy programs. The senators' amendment shifts $1.14 billion of the $40 billion DOE funding to USDA energy initiatives enacted in the recent farm bill.
The senators say USDA energy programs play a critical role in the development and commercialization of advanced biofuels. "The department also has a stellar record of carrying out initiatives like those already included in the economic recovery bill, including energy efficiency projects and the promotion of renewable energy systems," they state.
The senators noted that in order to meet the national targets in the Renewable Fuel Standard, there needs to be new support for biomass crop production, harvesting, transport and storage – programs already in place at USDA. In addition, during this time when private investment capital is slowing to a drip, the senators believe that Congress needs to support the growing number of commercial biorefineries for advanced biofuels, as well as biomass research and development for better technologies in the future.