More than 100 national, state and regional organizations, have written to members of the US Congress urging them to support a Farm Bill with mandatory funding for renewable energy and energy efficiency programs.
The letter was sent to House and Senate Agriculture Committees and was organized by the Agriculture Energy Coalition, 25×25 Alliance, Environmental Law & Policy Center, and the National Farmers Union.
Since 2009, thousands of direct and indirect jobs have been created or saved in rural areas by the Farm Bill’s Energy Title programs that benefitted almost 12,000 rural small businesses, agricultural producers, and advanced biofuel refineries across the country, according to the groups. Continued growth in new agriculture, manufacturing, and high tech jobs are at great risk without continued federal investment, the groups said.
In the midst of an economic downturn, the US agricultural sector has been remarkably resilient because, the groups say, American farmers have been willing to diversify and innovate. The expansion of renewable energy, energy efficiency and the emerging national bioeconomy have been vital components of that diversification, the groups said.
According to the agricultural groups, farm energy programs have:
- Assisted 6,600 projects, employing 15,000 people, generating or saving more than 7.3 billion kWh;
- Backed advanced biorefineries in 9 states in negotiating $750 million in private construction loans;
- Helped more than 860 growers and landowners in 188 counties across 12 states put nearly 59,000 underutilized acres back into production;
- Improved consumer education and choice by labeling 900 certified biobased products;
- Identified more than 25,000 biobased products made by 3,100 companies that employ nearly 100,000 people;
- Provided matching funding to 46 research and development projects in 24 states.
In April, the USDA announced that it was seeking applications to provide assistance to agricultural producers and rural small businesses for energy efficiency and renewable energy projects under the department’s Rural Energy for America Program. The department is still accepting applications for renewable energy system and energy efficiency improvement grant applications and combination grant and guaranteed loan applications until April 30, 2013; renewable energy system and energy efficiency improvement guaranteed loan only applications until July 15, 2013; and renewable energy system feasibility study grant applications through April 30, 2013.
Do you run a farm? Have you taken advantage of any of these programs? Please tell us in the comment section below.