The House Agriculture Subcommittee on Conservation, Credit, Energy and Research marked up farm bill discussion drafts for conservation, energy and credit Tuesday.
The conservation title draft would cut off new sign-ups for the Conservation Security Program, but would increase funding for the Environmental Quality Incentives and Farmland Protection Programs. The subcommittee approved the following amendments:
- Costa Amendment to prioritize the long-term benefits of grassland protection
- Walz Amendment to expand the Cooperative Conservation Partnership Initiative to include projects that simultaneously address rural community development opportunities and environmental enhancement
- Graves Amendment to ensure that entities receiving CCPI funds spend no more than 5% of that funding on administrative costs
- Cardoza Amendment declaring that packing and handling operations are considered on-farm income for the purposes of calculating Adjusted Gross Income
- Herseth Sandlin Amendment to add bison to the definition of livestock for the purposes of the Environmental Quality Incentives Program
- Cardoza Amendment to allow USDA to encourage the development of voluntary sustainable practices guidelines for specialty crops.
The energy draft features a federal loan guarantee program for biorefineries and biofuel production plants and increased funding for biomass energy research and development, plus the following amendments:
- Kagen Amendment to establish a pilot program to demonstrate on-farm energy production systems to help farms become energy independent using existing technologies
- Herseth Sandlin Amendment to modify the Section 9006 program that allows farmers, ranchers and rural small businesses to apply for grants and loans to purchase renewable energy systems and make energy efficiency improvements in farms or businesses
- Salazar Amendment to clarify that specialty crop waste and residues are understood to qualify as agricultural cellulosic biomass
- Fortenberry Amendment to establish grants to create models of energy independence in rural communities
- Cardoza Amendment to create an internship pilot program to train the next generation of professionals in renewable energy, ethanol, biomass, and other biofuels.
The credit draft includes a new loan guarantee program for producers carrying out conservation projects, expanded farm credit access for renewable energy initiatives, and updated rural housing lending population limits.