On Friday, the U.S. House of Representatives voted overwhelmingly to reject a proposed amendment to the Agriculture and Nutrition Act of 2018, also known as “Farm Bill” that would, among other changes, repeal the Rural Energy for America Program (REAP).
REAP is a federal program that provides grants and other financial assistance to agricultural producers and rural small businesses, allowing them to “purchase, install, and construct renewable energy systems, make energy efficiency improvements to non-residential buildings and facilities, use renewable technologies that reduce energy consumption, and participate in energy audits and renewable energy development assistance.”
“The bipartisan House vote preserving the Energy Title sends a strong message that attempts to cut farm energy efforts should cease,” said Andy Olsen, senior policy advocate at the Environmental Law & Policy Center (ELPC). “Congress should step up and increase funding for effective farm energy initiatives like the Rural Energy for America Program. REAP serves all agricultural sectors and has benefited farmers throughout the Midwest and across the country.”
The amendment was proposed by Representative Andy Biggs (R-AZ) and was shot down by an 82% majority, with the final tally being 340 votes against to 74 votes for. Biggs is no stranger to proposing cuts on renewable energy funding. In July 2017, Biggs introduced the Farewell to Unnecessary Energy Lifelines Reform Act, or FUEL, which proposed the elimination of several energy subsidies under the most recent farm bill of 2014. The act has since been referred to the Subcommittee on Commodity Exchanges, Energy, and Credit, where it has been effectively dead since September.
The House effort to reject the proposed amendment was lead by representatives Rodney Davis (R-IL) and Kristi Noem (R-SD), which appears to show divisions within the Republican Party over this issue.
“The resounding defeat of the Biggs Amendment sends a strong signal to the Senate that these programs have bipartisan support and should be renewed with mandatory funding,” said Ann Mesnikoff, federal legislative director for ELPC.
While this vote appeared to be a win for the protection of REAP, it is not a lasting one. The proposed Agriculture and Nutrition Act of 2018 was ultimately shut down on Friday, when it failed to pass in the House in a 213-198 vote. The current farm bill expires in 2018 and will need to be renewed or replaced by the end of the year, which opens up further opportunities for lawmakers to continue attacks on REAP.
It is worth note that REAP has been incredibly popular among agricultural and rural business owners in the Midwest, with requests for funds regularly exceeded available grants.