Posted July 6, 2012 –
With expiration of the current Farm Bill looming at the end of this year, Congress is working on a new version that will lay the groundwork for the next five years of U.S. agricultural policy. However, those hopeful that the new measure will reflect Congress’ newfound interest in fiscal restraint will be disappointed. Just like previous Farm Bills, the Senate version of the bill contains plenty of handouts for the ultimate agricultural special interest group: biofuel producers.
In 2005 and 2007, Congress created a guaranteed market for billions of gallons of biofuel a year. Yet despite having already provided biofuel producers with a mandate that people use their product, Congress is looking to sweeten the deal with even greater amounts of taxpayer-funded subsidies. According to the Congressional Budget Office, under the Senate version of the Farm Bill, “spending on the energy programs covered in the legislation would total $1.5 billion—an increase of $780 million over the 2013-2022 period above estimated expenses for those programs under the baseline.” Unsurprisingly, much of this increased spending will be for programs related to biofuels, and the majority of biofuel spending would be mandatory. This means that Congress would not have to include these amounts in the annual appropriations bills. These programs include:
$216 million for the Biorefinery Assistance Program, which provides grants and loans for the development of demonstration and commercial-scale bio-refineries
$174 million for the Biomass Crop Assistance Program, which encourages producers to grow biomass crops and subsidizes a portion of their cost to transport biomass crops for processing
$130 million for Biomass Research and Development, which will fund efforts by the Secretaries of Agriculture and Energy to coordinate policies that promote research and development for biofuels and bio-based products