Support Energy Programs in the 2012 Farm Bill

Today, Congresswoman Marcy Kaptur (D-OH) and several cosponsors introduced a bill in the House that would provide considerable support for renewable energy in the 2012 Farm Bill. The Rural Energy Investment Act, which is cosponsored by 16 other members, would reauthorize and provide funding for important  Farm Bill energy programs.*

Why do we need sustainable biomass programs?

Figure 1. Demand for corn ethanol leads to destruction of habitat.
So far, biomass grown in the U.S. has mostly been corn for use in ethanol production. The current demand for ethanol in the U.S. has driven corn prices and led to increased corn planting, leading to rapid conversion of  native grasslands and wetlands. 

As grasslands and wetlands disappear at alarming rates, many species of wildlife lose their habitat: some bird populations are declining at alarming rates.

How do Farm Bill energy programs benefit wildlife?

As an alternative to corn ethanol, Farm Bill energy programs explore newer, more sustainable biomass crops, such as native grasses, which are less degrading to soil and water than corn ethanol, and can even provide habitat for wildlife.

The Biomass Crop Assistance Program (BCAP) and the Rural Energy for America Program (REAP) are a win-win because they give incentives for local development of more sustainable energy sources and are also  good for local economies. The National Wildlife Federation played a key role in developing BCAP, which helps to pay the costs of establishing and growing biomass crops near energy facilities.

Figure 2. Farm Bill sustainable biomass programs benefit wildlife and local economies.
BCAP recipients such as the Show Me Energy Cooperativein Missouri plant perennial native grasses and forbs that provide a fuel source which protects wildlife habitat and conserves soil.  It is important to give Show Me Energy and other innovative sustainable biomass ventures the opportunity to build the infrastructure and market they need to reduce our reliance on more harmful fuel sources.

REAP helps farmers become less reliant on fossil fuels by providing grants for on farm energy audits and renewable energy projects. The program also provides grants and loan guarantees to small businesses and farmers and ranchers located in rural areas to help them purchase renewable energy systems, make improvements in energy efficiency, and perform renewable energy feasibility studies.

Please ask your Congressional representative to show their support for sustainable, renewable energy by becoming original cosponsors of this marker bill.

Call the Capitol Switchboard at (202) 224-3121 and ask for your Congressional representative’s office.  Ask to speak to the member of the staff who works on energy, agriculture, or environmental policy. Tell them you would like your representative to become a cosponsor of the Rural Energy Investment Act.

Current cosponsors of the Rural Energy Investment Act include:

Ron Kind (D-WI), Chellie Pingree (D-ME), Maurice Hinchey (D-NY), Bruce Baley (D-IA), Leonard Boswell (D-IA), Ben Lujan (D-NM), G.K. Butterfield (D-NC), Tim Ryan (D-OH), Donna Christensen (D-VI), Dave Loebsack (D-IA), Barbara Lee (D-CA), Laura Richardson (D-CA), Tim Walz (D-MN), Michael Michaud (D-ME), Earl Blumenauer (D-OR), Marcia Fudge (D-OH)


*12 representatives from both parties have also shown support for Farm Bill energy programs in a bipartisan letter to the House Agriculture Committee.