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How the 2018 Farm Bill Affects the Biogas Industry

How the 2018 Farm Bill Affects the Biogas Industry

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With the 2018 Farm Bill recently being passed by the House and Senate and signed into law by the President on December 20th, those in the biogas industry may be wondering how this affects them and their business. Here is a rundown of what the American Biogas Council has successfully lobbied for over the past two years or more.

Funding is always a stumbling block for new projects, but the Farm Bill addresses funding needs in many areas. The bill includes an energy title with mandatory funding of US$625 million allocated over a ten year period, including US$50 million budgeted specifically for USDA’s Rural Energy for America Program (REAP). Other programs that fall under the energy title that will receive mandatory funding include the BioPreferred program, the Bioenergy Program for Advanced Biofuel, and the Biorefinery Assistance program. While the Biomass Research and Development Initiative (BDRI) and the Biomass Crop Assistance Program (BCAP) were both reauthorized, they have not been allocated mandatory funding under the Bill. However, the American Biogas Council (ABC) is negotiating with appropriators to include funding for these programs within the 2020 budget. ABC is also requesting additional funding for the Rural Energy for America Program as the number of farmers that have subscribed to this program far outweigh the number of digester projects that are being supported under this program. Consequently, many on-farm biodigester projects are not receiving partial funding to help them get up and running due to limited funds.

The 2018 Farm Bill also includes several new provisions that address food waste, promote knowledge about biodigester technologies, and which look at establishing a task force who’s role will be to identify biogas opportunities. The provisions are outlined in more detail below.

2018 Farm Bill Promotes Reducing Food Waste

Several funding opportunities exist under the Bill to promote the recycling of food waste in order to prevent food waste from being discarded onto landfills, including:

  1. Increasing Community Composting and Reducing Food Waste — US$ 25 million has been allocated annually for the next five years to develop an effective plan and strategy to reduce food waste through municipal composting in 10 or more states. The aim is to produce compost; provide agricultural producers with ready access to compost in order to improve crop production; reduce farmer’s dependence on, and use of chemical fertilizers; improve the quality of soils; promote waste management and the development of permaculture business enterprises; increase water retention in soils; and ultimately reduce the volume of food waste that ends up on municipal landfills.
  2. Local Agriculture Market Program — this program has grants of up to US$ 500,000 available to help establish new business opportunities or to promote marketing strategies that will reduce food waste on farms.
  3. Office of Urban Agriculture and Innovative Production — the bill has established a grant program “to encourage and promote urban, indoor, and other emerging agricultural production practices,” which should give sustainable urban crop production methods such as aquaponics and hydroponics a boost.
  4. Food Loss and Waste Reduction Liaison — The new Bill directs the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) to establish liaison who will serve as an intermediary promoting interagency collaboration. The USDA will also conduct a food waste study looking at methodologies used to measure food waste, factors that contribute to food waste, financial costs associated with food waste, the effectiveness of current liability protection for food donors, as well as other relevant issues.

Interagency Biogas Opportunities Task Force

The Bill also establishes an Interagency Biogas Opportunities Task Force who will be responsible for coordinating policies and overseeing programs to promote biogas research and investment in the biogas industry.

Carbon Utilization and Biogas Education Program

Furthermore, the Bill also establishes the Carbon Utilization and Biogas Education Program, which earmarks US$ 1 million annually over the next five years (from 2019 to 2023) to educate agricultural growers and other stakeholders about opportunities for collecting organic waste from various sources for processing in a single biodigester.

As we can see, the 2018 Farm Bill has earmarked a lot of funding for addressing food waste, and thanks to the American Biogas Council, the biogas industry has the potential to reap some of these benefits.

Featured Image by GeraldK via Pixabay
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