Every five years, Congress passes legislation that sets national agriculture, nutrition, conservation, and forestry policy. This bill, referred to as the “Farm Bill”, includes policies that impact the ethanol industry and the farmers who support ethanol production.
This week, the U.S. Senate Committee on Agriculture held a hearing titled, “Farm Bill 2023: Rural Development and Energy Programs”, where Senators highlighted the need to support rural communities through through this year’s Farm Bill. Growth Energy submitted a letter for the record of the hearing highlighting the importance of Section 2203 of the Inflation Reduction Act, the $500 million in funding for the U.S. Department of Agriculture to provide grants to expand biofuel pump infrastructure, upgrade existing tanks and pump, and increase usage of higher blends of ethanol.
“This funding will expand the availability of lower-carbon, lower-cost fuel options at the pump, which in turn will further climate progress, deliver savings at the pump, ensure greater long-term energy security, and welcome an economic boon to rural communities,” wrote CEO Emily Skor.
Additionally, Senate champions shared their support of the biofuels industry throughout the hearing in opening remarks and in their questioning of USDA Under Secretary for Rural Development Xochitl Torres Small:
Chairman Stabenow (D-Mich.): "As I always say in Michigan, we grow things and make things, that's what drives our economy. Bio-based products combine both. These products create new markets for our nation's farmers, while reducing our dependence on foreign oil ... So, I look forward to hearing recommendations for ways to improve the bio preferred program while continuing to build our nation’s bio-economy."
Senator Klobuchar (D-Minn.): It’s clear that biofuels and biobased products are clear pathways to decarbonizing our economy. How can investments in biofuel infrastructure help farmers in rural communities? Can you give a brief update on the implementation of these programs?"
USDA Under Secretary Torres Small: "We’re very excited about Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) and the expansion of HBIIP. Additionally, we’re excited about increased investments in BioPreferred products. We know that part of building a biobased economy is limiting waste and turning that waste into other products."
Chairman Stabenow (D-Mich.): The recent $14 billion investment in clean energy builds on the legacy your department already has – could you talk about when we should expect USDA to open applications for these programs and the status of these programs?
Under Secretary Torres Small: "Stakeholder engagement is key. We want to make sure we’re responding to local ideas and visions. We are tailoring our programs to best support local vision. When it comes to the Rural Energy for America Program (REAP) and the Higher Blends Infrastructure Incentive Program (HBIIP), we’re working to incorporate those funds as quickly as possible."
Senator Ernst (R-Iowa): "As you know, farmers are facing very high propane prices. Given these elevated energy prices in many of our sectors, what are the programs in this next Farm Bill where we can maybe expand to support our nations farmers and energy producers?"
Under Secretary Torres Small: "When it comes to addressing the cost of fuel, Rural Development has a key role, both in supporting the infrastructure to deliver higher blends of biofuels through the HBIIP program and we’ve also seen incredible investment from farmers who are looking to make their corn dryers more efficient through the REAP program."