With 2013 Farm Bill Approaching, Cantwell Sponsors Rural Energy Bill

Cantwell: ‘Washington state’s farmers, dairies and rural communities are pioneering new approaches to energy’

WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senator Maria Cantwell (D-WA) sponsored energy legislation that would help farmers and rural communities cut costs while expanding America’s supply of clean energy by encouraging growth in renewable energy technologies. The legislation is intended to be included in the 2013 Farm Bill.

Introduced on Monday by Senators Al Franken (D-MN) and Tom Harkin (D-IA) with Cantwell as an original cosponsor, the Rural Energy Investment Act (S. 860) includes several provisions expected to help create jobs in Washington state and throughout the country. The Act will help farmers, dairies and rural communities by encouraging the growth of agricultural energy technologies, including advanced biofuels, biogas, biomass, and renewable energies.

“Washington state’s farmers, dairies and rural communities are pioneering new approaches to energy,” Cantwell said. “This legislation supports their innovative ideas that can reduce operating costs for our farmers while expanding America’s supply of clean energy. By supporting clean energy development, we can create jobs and opportunities in rural communities across the country.”

The legislation would reauthorize several programs including the Rural Energy for America Program (REAP) that was first authorized in its current form as part of the 2008 Farm Bill. Several Washington state businesses have benefitted from this provision. The program helps agriculture producers and businesses in rural areas invest in energy efficiency and renewable energy projects to lower energy bills and earn additional income by selling energy they produce.

Some of the examples of Washington businesses that have benefited from REAP include Sun Dodger Ventures in Thurston County, which used a REAP investment to generate solar energy and reduce operating costs. Edaleen Cow Power LLC in Lynden won a REAP loan and grant to install an anaerobic digester to convert waste into electricity to sell. Rainier Biogas also won a grant to convert waste at dairy farms in the Enumclaw Plateau into energy.  

The Rural Energy Investment Act also contains several other programs that will specifically help Washington, including:

  • The Biorefinery Assistance Program (BAP), which assists in the development of new and emerging technologies for advanced biofuels through support for the construction and retrofitting of biorefineries for the production of advanced biofuels.
  • The Biomass Research and Development Initiative (BRDI), which provides competitive grant funding for research, development and demonstration of technologies and processes for the commercial production of advanced biofuels, biobased energy, feedstocks, and products.

More information about other programs in the bill is available here.

A strong energy section of the Farm Bill has the support of a coalition of more than 100 agriculture and energy organizations. Read their letter here.

In addition to Senator Cantwell, other cosponsors of the Franken-Harkin bill include: Senators Sherrod Brown (D-OH), Dick Durbin (D-IL), Tim Johnson (D- SD), William “Mo” Cowan (D-MA), Mazie Hirono (D-HI), Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), and Brian Schatz (D-HI).