BCAP Could Be Back
The Biomass Crop Assistance Program might not be dead yet. The Senate Agriculture Committee passed a version of the 2012 Farm Bill in late April, which includes an amended Energy Title section that will mandate energy program funding.
The Energy Title, tweaked and brought forth by Sen. Kent Conrad, D-N.D., allocates roughly $800 million over five years to programs that include BCAP and the Rural Energy for America Program. The support for the Energy Title was strong, passing with a vote of 16-5, and the co-sponsors of the bill make the future life of BCAP appear even stronger. Both Republican and Democratic senators from Indiana, Minnesota, Pennsylvania, Iowa, North Dakota, South Dakota, Ohio and Nebraska co-sponsored.
Many steps have yet to be taken in the legislative process, not to mention the fact that this is an election year, but the Senate meeting on the Farm Bill has instilled hope that BCAP has a solid chance at passing. “We have good news on the energy front,” says Senate Committee Chairwoman Sen. Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich. Through savings found in other places in the Farm Bill, the 2012 version of the Energy Title is completely paid for. “As a result of a number of additional savings, we have been placed in a situation where we can, in fact, have a strong energy title with dollars we have saved,” Stabenow says.
Those dollars have come, in part, by removing funding for the economic adjustment assistance to users of the upland cotton program, which will free up $476 million. Other areas of savings come from excluding catastrophic risk premium reduction offset funding, among others.
“This bill is a win for tax payers, clearly,” Conrad says. “This is a win for reformers, this is a win for farm and ranch families all across this country, this is a win for the economy of America.” Streamlining programs like BCAP will make accessing funds easier, but more important to Conrad’s win is the fact that the bill is fully funded with money from savings. “Farm policy has many critics,” he points out, adding that it’s amazing how uninformed those critics are.
The vast amount of funding goes to nutrition programs directed toward children, he says. “Only six percent of farm bill spending, less than two tenths of one percent of overall federal spending, goes to farm programs,” Conrad says. “Somehow that gets lost.”