Farm Bill Energy Title’s Record of Success

The Farm Bill Energy Title programs represent one-tenth of a percent of the overall bill’s cost. Yet, they have such a huge impact on rural economies—diversifying crops, sustaining and creating jobs, new industries and supporting new technologies.
By Lloyd Ritter | March 06, 2018

A Congressional staffer in Washington, D.C., recently asked me to remind her what the Farm Bill Energy Title programs do. I often tell policymakers about the broad economic stimulus and impact these programs have at the national level. Perhaps I should also tell them about the positive outcomes these programs provide for individual citizens, businesses and rural communities in every state.

Take the Biobased Markets Program as an example. The BioPreferred program sets purchasing requirements for federal agencies and contractors, and provides product manufacturers voluntary labeling and certification. The program now includes 97 federal purchasing categories, listing about 15,000 biobased products. Additionally, the USDA Certified Biobased label now appears on more than 3,000 products. More than 1.5 million American workers produce biobased products, generating over $127 billion in sales.

Those impressive national statistics are made up of lots of individual success stories, including:

• Cortec Corp. in Saint Paul, Minnesota, lists 34 biobased lubricant and corrosion protection products in the BioPreferred catalog. The biobased products show Cortec’s commitment to a sustainable environment.

• Ambertech in Paris, Texas, produces certified, 99 percent-biobased, biodegradable lubricants that are used in automotive, industrial, marine, mining, aviation, energy, drilling, manufacturing, transportation, construction and agriculture industries.

The Section 9003 program works with rural lenders to secure financing for companies to build biorefineries that produce renewable chemicals, biobased products and advanced biofuels. This program uniquely focuses on projects that combine first-of-a-kind technologies and agricultural raw materials. The program’s successes are real, and there are plenty of examples:

• Fulcrum Sierra Biofuels is building a biorefinery in Storey County, Nevada, that will annually convert 147,000 tons of municipal solid waste into jet fuel. When USDA approved this facility for a loan guarantee, Cathay Pacific Airways negotiated a 10-year offtake agreement with Fulcrum.

• Biosynthetic Technologies in California is working with a rural lender to finance construction of a commercial manufacturing plant that will produce 20 MMgy of biobased motor oils, industrial lubricants, and cosmetic ingredients.

The Rural Energy for America Program provides grants and loan guarantees to the broadest spectrum of energy efficiency and renewable energy technologies, including infrastructure for wind, solar, geothermal, bioenergy, biogas and biofuels. More than 13,000 projects in all 50 states have received REAP awards since the 2008 Farm Bill, leveraging more than $3 billion in private investment. The program has a growing record of successes, such as:

Reinford Farms in Mifflintown, Pennsylvania, used the REAP program to build a biodigester to process manure from 630 dairy cows, including cows from neighboring farms. The Reinfords save money by using the biodigester’s heat to pasteurize milk, dry feed corn and heat all of the farm’s buildings and hot water. They earn additional revenue by selling back biogas.

• Since starting a REAP-funded energy audit program, the University of Georgia in Athens has helped over 1,000 poultry houses on 50 farms lower energy costs by identifying high-impact efficiency upgrades.

The Biomass Crop Assistance Program provides matching payments to farmers who produce and deliver dedicated energy crops to next-generation biorefineries that generate heat, power, renewable chemicals, biobased products and advanced biofuels. BCAP has supported nearly 1,000 growers to establish dedicated, nonfood energy crops on nearly 49,000 acres. Importantly, BCAP also supports hazardous fuels removal from forests to reduce the threat of catastrophic wildfires. There are success stories from around the country:

• Aloterra worked with farmers in Northeast Ohio and Northwest Pennsylvania to establish 5,000 acres of a perennial grass on idle cropland. Aloterra secured $20 million in private funds—$4 in private capital for every $1 in federal funds—to build two manufacturing facilities in Ashtabula County, Ohio, creating more than 60 full-time jobs in the region.

• Mt. Taylor Manufacturing is a partner in forest restoration and hazardous fuels reduction in the Cibola National Forest in McKinley and Cibola counties in New Mexico. MTM employs 42 people, including local Navajo tribal members, and creates an additional 18 jobs for local logging companies.

• Rather than grind up corn stover or plow it back into the field, Emmetsburg, Iowa, farmer Jay Gunderson bales and delivers it to the Project Liberty cellulosic ethanol plant. Without the BCAP program and contract from Poet-DSM, Gunderson says, the stover wouldn’t get harvested.

The Farm Bill Energy Title programs represent one-tenth of a percent of the overall bill’s cost. Yet, they have such a huge impact on rural economies—diversifying crops, sustaining and creating jobs, new industries and supporting new technologies. Whether measured in national impact or individual stories, the value of these low-cost programs is undeniable.

Author: Lloyd Ritter
Director, Ag Energy Coalition