Farm Bill Clean Energy Development Funds at Risk

In his State of the Union address last week, President George W. Bush championed cleaner, more efficient energy as the best way to achieve energy independence for the U.S.

Chicago, Illinois – February 4, 2004 [SolarAccess.com] Last May the President signed into law the Energy Title within the Farm Security and Rural Investment Act – the 2002 Farm Bill – in which the United States committed to more than US$400 million for clean energy development on farms and ranches across rural America. The Farm Bill’s Energy Title and related provisions create new investment opportunities for wind and solar power, bioenergy and biofuels, and energy efficiency improvements on America’s farms and ranches. The Energy Title and related provisions benefit farmers and rural communities, achieve a cleaner environment, and are a major step towards fulfilling the President’s national energy independence goal. However, the Administration’s forthcoming 2004 budget could eliminate all funding for a cornerstone of the Energy Title in the Farm Bill — Section 9006 — which creates new financial incentives for farmers, ranchers, and rural small businesses to install new clean energy systems and make energy efficiency improvements. Section 9006 represents the largest new U.S. commitment to clean and efficient energy across rural America in decades. It is enormously popular with farmers and ranchers across the country, and the U.S. Department of Agriculture is expeditiously implementing the new program. “Section 9006 is a ‘win-win-win’ for farmers, economic development, and the environment because it helps farmers diversify their income with clean energy ‘cash crops,’ and promotes rural economic development, while making the environment cleaner for everyone,” said Howard Learner, executive director of The Environmental Law & Policy Center (ELPC). “These programs are very popular, and they offer new incentives not available anywhere else. Reducing funding for them would seriously undercut the President’s energy independence and environmental quality objectives.” “Farm energy expenses can comprise 10 percent or more of total farm costs,” said Steven Nadel, executive director of Americans for an Energy Efficient Economy (ACEEE). “A fully funded and implemented Energy Title will go a long way toward lowering expenditures on farms.” “The farm community represents an untapped opportunity for energy savings,” said R. Neal Elliott, executive director of ACEEE’s Industry and Agriculture Program. “The Energy Title in its current form uses existing energy efficiency and Renewable Energy technologies to improve the economic viability of the agricultural sector and national energy security.” Farmers, ranchers, and rural businesses across America are waiting eagerly for the chance to install new Renewable Energy and energy-efficient equipment, and to invest in utility-scale energy projects. A public meeting convened in Washington, D.C. in December by USDA highlighted the breadth and depth of public support for investments in Renewable Energy. Section 9006 and related clean energy incentives in the Farm Bill provide the foundation for these new investments in Renewable Energy. Reducing or eliminating funding for Section 9006 and other provisions in the Farm Bill undercuts the Administration’s primary goal of achieving energy independence. Section 9006 and complementary clean energy incentives in the Energy Title are needed now to help achieve energy security independence, while promoting rural development and a cleaner environment, said ELPC. “Passage of the Energy Title was a bipartisan victory for Renewable Energy and for rural America,” said Carol Werner, executive director of The Environmental and Energy Study Institute (EESI). “We have the opportunity to fundamentally transform the way we use and produce energy in this country. Section 9006 helps to secure a more independent and cleaner energy future. No existing Federal program meets this need — the Energy Title should be a major priority for Congress and the Administration this year.”
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