For those interested in the agricultural side of energy and sustainability, I have been excerpting updates from the Center for American Progress’s Jake Caldwell. He has a new post: “Growing Together: The New Farm Bill Must Represent all Americans.” Here are some excerpts:
The current bill provides a significant boost in our efforts to prepare for the next generation of cellulosic biofuels–liquid fuels sustainably produced from energy crops such as switchgrass and agricultural wastes such as corn stalks and rice hulls. Importantly, the bill also provides for the use of transparent certification and labeling criteria to encourage sustainable production of biofuels through the innovative “Voluntary Renewable Biomass Certification Program.”
An investment in advanced biofuels, however, must be accompanied by enhanced environmental safeguards and incentives for biofuel producers to conserve land and water resources, maximize lifecycle greenhouse gas emission reductions, and grow energy crops in a sustainable manner. At the same time, any attempt to introduce a Renewable Fuel Standard, which mandates a portion of our nation’s fuel supply consist of renewable fuels, in the Farm Bill at the eleventh hour is counterproductive to our nation’s overall energy policy and must be rejected. A Renewable Fuel Standard with meaningful environmental safeguards belongs in the Energy Bill–not in the Farm Bill.
In contrast, the so-called Voluntary Fuels Certification Program is a key component of the 2007 Farm Bill. The certification program is a voluntary, market-based mechanism that can be implemented in a short time frame (see chart, below). The inclusion of the low-cost certification program in the 2007 Farm Bill will expand and improve our nation’s farm and energy policy and it deserves our support.
Other key features of the new Farm Bill that deserve a fair hearing and then strong support include:
Promoting Sustainable Biofuel Production
The Farm Bill’s investment in advanced biofuels must be accompanied by enhanced environmental safeguards. This means incentives for biofuel producers to protect our nation’s land, air, and water quality and reduce greenhouse gas emissions with low-carbon performance-based advanced fuels. The primary goals of land currently enrolled in Farm Bill conservation programs should not be compromised for the sake of biofuel production.
Biofuel crops can be produced in a sustainable manner. The use of transparent certification and labeling criteria to encourage sustainable production of biofuels, such as the “Voluntary Renewable Biomass Certification Program,” should therefore be implemented immediately. And farmers must have a central role in this effort.