The Biobased and Renewable Products Advocacy Group (BRAG) helps members develop and bring to market their innovative biobased and renewable chemical products through insightful policy and regulatory advocacy. BRAG is managed by B&C® Consortia Management, L.L.C., an affiliate of Bergeson & Campbell, P.C.

Reportedly, the four principals leading the effort to merge the House and Senate versions of the next five-year Farm Bill into a final bill have reached a preliminary agreement on the two major sticking points: food stamps and crop subsidies. The leaders are working feverishly to reach agreement and pass the final version of the Farm Bill by the end of this year when the current Farm Bill expires. Previous Biobased and Renewable Advocacy Group (BRAG™) coverage of the Farm Bill debate and negotiations is available online.

Tags: Farm Bill

 

This week could determine whether Congress will be able to pass its next five-year Farm Bill by the end of this year. Congress is expected to adjourn for its Thanksgiving recess at the end of this week, and the House of Representatives is expected to adjourn for the year on December 13, 2013. With the little time remaining to conduct official Congressional business this year, two of the four principal Farm Bill conferees working to join the House and Senate versions of the Farm Bill into one final piece of legislation, have made public statements stressing the importance of reaching a deal by the end of the week. Senator Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) reported that the four principal conferees are working intensely this week to reach agreement on a framework for the final bill. Representative Frank Lucas (R-OK) has reportedly asserted that this is the "deadline" week for conferees to reach agreement on final legislation to provide the House of Representatives time to pass it before the year's end.


While there are some reports that progress is being made to merge the House and Senate versions of crop insurance programs, the most significant difference apparently remains on food stamps. The Senate-passed version contains $4 billion in cuts to the program over ten years, while the House version would cut $40 billion. There is some talk that Congress could look to pass a short term extension of the current Farm Bill if enough progress is not made this week.
 


 

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has announced its Commodity Credit Corporation's (CCC) third sale of sugar this year for use as a feedstock for bioenergy production under the Food, Conservation and Energy Act of 2008 (the 2008 Farm Bill) Feedstock Flexibility Program (FFP). The minimum FFP bid has been increased to 50,000 short tons (100 million pounds) to provide the opportunity for commercial-scale sugar use in bioenergy production. The opportunity to purchase sugar under this sale is available online.

USDA has sold sugar twice this year under the FFP, both times at a loss for the government. The 2008 Farm Bill, which expired on September 30, 2013, directs USDA to keep sugar prices at or above certain levels, and authorizes USDA either to acquire sugar through forfeiture of sugar loans made by USDA's CCC, or to buy sugar and sell it to bioenergy producers until prices rise to those levels. Domestic sugar prices have been falling this year. BRAG's reports on the previous sales are available online.
 


 

On October 21, 2013, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) issued a press release announcing the availability of $181 million in funding under the Biorefinery Assistance Program (BAP) to support the development of commercial-scale biorefineries or the retrofitting of existing biorefineries to produce advanced biofuels from non-food sources. The BAP was created under the Food, Conservation and Energy Act of 2008 (the 2008 Farm Bill) and is administered by USDA Rural Development. It provides loan guarantees to viable commercial-scale facilities to develop new and emerging technologies for advanced biofuels. To date, the program has provided approximately $684 million to support biofuels projects in eight states. USDA's press release is available online.


Applications for funding are due to USDA by January 30, 2014. Additional information on how to apply may be found online.


This announcement comes at a time when the 2008 Farm Bill was allowed to expire on September 30, and a House and Senate conference committee recently initiated work to develop a final Farm Bill that may be voted on by Congress and signed into law by President Obama. Upon the end of the government shutdown last week, President Obama publicly stressed the importance of passing a new Farm Bill this year.
 


 

On October 21, 2013, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) issued a press release announcing the availability of $181 million in funding under the Biorefinery Assistance Program (BAP) to support the development of commercial-scale biorefineries or the retrofitting of existing biorefineries to produce advanced biofuels from non-food sources. The BAP was created under the Food, Conservation and Energy Act of 2008 (the 2008 Farm Bill) and is administered by USDA Rural Development. It provides loan guarantees to viable commercial-scale facilities to develop new and emerging technologies for advanced biofuels. To date, the program has provided approximately $684 million to support biofuels projects in eight states. USDA's press release is available online.


Applications for funding are due to USDA by January 30, 2014. Additional information on how to apply may be found online.


This announcement comes at a time when the 2008 Farm Bill was allowed to expire on September 30, and a House and Senate conference committee recently initiated work to develop a final Farm Bill that may be voted on by Congress and signed into law by President Obama. Upon the end of the government shutdown last week, President Obama publicly stressed the importance of passing a new Farm Bill this year.
 


 

On September 30, 2013, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) announced it had completed its second sale of sugar under the Food, Conservation and Energy Act of 2008 (the 2008 Farm Bill) Feedstock Flexibility Program (FFP). Reportedly, USDA purchased the sugar for $65.9 million and sold it immediately for $12.6 million, a $53.3 million loss. Currently, no information is available about the sale on USDA's website because the website is suspended during the government shutdown.


The 2008 Farm Bill, which expired on September 30, directs USDA to keep sugar prices at or above certain levels, and authorizes USDA either to acquire sugar through forfeiture of sugar loans made by the USDA's Commodity Credit Corporation or to buy sugar and sell it to bioenergy producers until prices raise to those levels. Domestic sugar prices have been falling this year.


USDA was criticized for its first sale of sugar as part of the FFP because in that instance USDA had purchased 7,118 short tons of refined beet sugar for $3.6 million and sold it to renewable fuel producer Front Range Energy for $900,000 (a loss of $2.7 million).
 


 

Not only did the U.S. government shut down at midnight on Monday, but so did the nine month extension of the 2008 Farm Bill. With no new five-year Farm Bill, the future is uncertain for rural energy programs supported by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), including the Biorefinery Assistance Program that promotes the development of biorefineries in the U.S.


As we have reported earlier this year, the U.S. Senate passed its version of the next five-year Farm Bill, including funding for farm, nutrition, and energy programs. Importantly, the Senate bill continues and provides mandatory funding for existing Farm Bill energy programs and extends eligibility to renewable chemicals. After failing to pass a combined bill, the U.S. House of Representatives passed a "farm-only" bill this summer and a nutrition-only bill cutting $40 billion in food stamps just last week. The House farm-only Farm Bill contains an energy title without mandatory funding that will instead be subject to annual appropriations, and it does not extend the energy programs to renewable chemicals.


There has been hope that though the differences are deep, the House and Senate will be able to pass a five-year Farm Bill by the end of the year when mandatory funds for commodity subsidies and food stamps expire. Whether this is true now largely depends on how quickly Congress re-opens the government and raises the debt ceiling to ensure the ability of the U.S. to meet its financial obligations.
 


 

On September 19, 2013, in a partisan vote, the U.S. House of Representatives passed by a vote of 217-210 its version of the nutrition portion of the next Farm Bill. All Democrats and 15 Republicans in the House of Representatives voted against the bill, which would cut $40 billion from the national food stamp program over the next decade and will almost surely delay final passage of the next five-year Farm Bill. The current Farm Bill expires on September 30.


Historically, the Farm Bill has combined funding for farm and nutrition programs. This summer, by a bi-partisan vote, the Senate passed S. 954, its version of the next five-year Farm Bill that included funding for farm, rural energy, and nutrition programs. It continues funding for Farm Bill energy programs that help encourage biofuels production, and expands coverage to include renewable chemicals. S. 954 would cut only $4 billion from the food stamp program over the next decade.


The House split the farm and nutrition portions of the Farm Bill because in June of this year, it failed to pass a combined bill that would have cut $20 billion from food stamps. At the time, generally, Democrats felt the food stamp cuts were too steep, while Republicans thought they did not go far enough. Over the summer, House leadership opted to split the bill into farm and nutrition only parts, and to get the votes to pass the nutrition portion by answering the Republican call for steeper cuts.


Now that the House has passed both the farm and nutrition portions of the next Farm Bill, it is expected that House leadership will appoint conferees to meet with the already named Senate conferees in an effort to prepare a bill in final that may be passed by both the House and Senate and signed into law by the President. No one expects this process will be complete by September 30, but they are hopeful it could happen by the end of the year when farm support will revert back to a 1949 agriculture law. If that happens, there will not be any continuing support for biofuels and renewable chemicals.
 

Tags: Farm Bill

 

Last week, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) announced that it is seeking bids from bioenergy producers to purchase sugar from the Department as part of the Food, Conservation and Energy Act of 2008 (the 2008 Farm Bill) Feedstock Flexibility Program (FFP). This will be the second time that USDA will utilize the FFP. The 2008 Farm Bill directs USDA to keep sugar prices at or above certain levels, and authorizes USDA to either acquire sugar through forfeiture of sugar loans made by the USDA's Commodity Credit Corporation or to buy sugar and sell it to bioenergy producers until prices raise to those levels. Domestic sugar prices have been falling this year.


USDA was criticized for its first sale of sugar as part of the FFP about a month ago because in that instance USDA had purchased 7,118 short tons of refined beet sugar for $3.6 million and sold it to renewable fuel producer Front Range Energy for $900,000 (a loss of $2.7 million).
 

Tags: FFP, USDA

 

USDA is continuing its work to promote the U.S. biofuels industry, which USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack believes helps bolster the U.S. agriculture sector and rural economy. On September 12, 2013, USDA announced that it will provide a total of $15.5 million to 188 advanced biofuel producers under USDA's Advanced Biofuel Payment Program, which was created under the 2008 Farm Bill (P.L. 110-234, the "Food, Conservation and Energy Act of 2008"). It is reported that through that program to date, USDA has provided $211 million to 290 biofuel producers. This federal support is an important component to efforts of producers in the still nascent advanced biofuels industry to get up and running. USDA's press release on this announcement is available online.


 
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