By Lynn L. Bergeson
On March 6, 2018, a coalition of over 200 companies and trade associations sent a letter to the Agricultural Committee leaders in the House and Senate urging the reauthorization of and stable mandatory funding for the energy title programs in the next Farm Bill reauthorization. The letter states that the Farm Bill energy title programs have greatly assisted rural America in developing clean, renewable energy, biobased products, and making energy efficiency investments for more than 15 years with an incredibly modest, cost-effective investment. The less than one tenth of one percent of Farm Bill spending dedicated to the programs has allowed for ag-based entrepreneurs to launch initiatives to generate jobs and economic development in areas such as biogas and advanced biofuels, biopower, biobased products, renewable chemicals, and energy efficiency. Additionally, the letter provides recommendations for further improving the energy title programs. For example, the Biorefinery Assistance Program (BAP) could be opened fully to standalone renewable chemical companies; the Rural Energy for America Program (REAP) could be enhanced to support a fuller range of important, proven, market-ready technologies; and the Biomass Crop Assistance Program (BCAP) could be effective in continuing to support biomass energy development and sustainably address hazardous fuels reduction efforts in our nation’s forests.
By Lauren M. Graham, Ph.D.
On October 17, 2017, Congressman Jimmy Panetta (D-CA), Congressman Neal Dunn, M.D. (R-FL), and 77 additional House members sent a bipartisan letter to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), and U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to urge the agencies to work together to promote innovative new technologies aimed at increasing crop yields and reducing the cost of production. According to Congressman Panetta, the letter was prepared in response to duplicative or inconsistent regulatory proposals regarding biotechnology. In the letter to Secretary Sonny Perdue, Commissioner Scott Gottlieb, and Administrator Scott Pruitt, the members highlighted several recent biotechnology regulatory efforts that warrant the Administration’s attention, as well as the importance of a consistent, science-based, risk-proportionate regulatory system. Members concluded by urging the agencies to cooperate in creating consistent regulatory proposals that foster innovation; to increase engagement with trading partners to promote a harmonized, science-based international regulatory system for agricultural products; and to consider ways to engage with the public to discuss the continued advancement of biotechnology in agriculture.
By Lauren M. Graham, Ph.D.
On October 12, 2017, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) announced two public meetings regarding its Agricultural Biotechnology Education and Outreach Initiative. The meetings will be held in Charlotte, North Carolina, on November 7, 2017, from 8:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. (EST) and in San Francisco, California, on November 14, 2017, from 8:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. (PST). FDA states the purpose of the public meetings is “to provide the public with an opportunity to share information, experiences, and suggestions to help inform the development of this education and outreach initiative.” This initiative, which Congress appropriated $3 million to fund, calls upon FDA to work with USDA to provide education and outreach to the public on agricultural biotechnology and food and animal feed ingredients derived from biotechnology. More information on the initiative and information on how to register for the meetings is available on FDA’s website. Comments on questions listed in the Federal Register notice, scheduled to be published tomorrow, are also being requested and can be filed in Docket FDA-2017-N-5991 on www.regulations.gov. Comments are due by November 17, 2017.
On June 15, 2016, H.R. 5489, Agriculture Environmental Stewardship Act of 2016, was introduced to the House Ways and Means Committee on Science, Space, and Technology. The bill would add additional biogas applications to the list of technologies that qualify for the federal Section 45 energy investment tax credit, increasing acceptable biogas technologies from only biogas-based electricity projects to "qualified biogas property" defined as:
property comprising a system which--
(i) uses anaerobic digesters, or other biological, chemical, thermal, or mechanical processes (alone or in combination), to convert biomass (as defined in section 45K(c)(3)) into a gas which consists of not less than 52 percent methane, and
(ii) captures such gas for use as a fuel.
Qualified biogas properties, as well as qualified manure resource recovery properties, will be eligible for a 30 percent tax credit under this bill. H.R. 5489 was introduced with bipartisan support by Representatives Tom Reed (R-NY) and Ron Kind (D-WI), and signed by 12 other House members. A similar bill is expected to be introduced in the Senate,
On November 19, 2015, USDA published a Notice of the Advisory Committee on Biotechnology and 21st Century Agriculture (AC21) Meeting in the Federal Register. The meeting will review the purpose, history, operational process, and member responsibilities of AC21; update committee members on relevant regulatory developments, initiatives, and USDA activities; and outline new tasks for the committee to address. There will also be an opportunity for members of the public to make oral statements, as long as they contact Dr. Michael Schechtman about presenting a statement at least three business days before the meeting. The meeting will be held in Washington, D.C. on December 14 and 15, 2015, from 8:30 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. on both days.