Farm Bill Hearing: Bringing Renewable Energy to Rural America
The House Agriculture Committee continued their Farm Bill work today with a look at USDA energy programs.
High energy prices captured much of the focus during a Farm Bill hearing on renewable energy opportunities in rural America. USDA Under Secretary Xochitl Torres Small says it’s an issue they are looking to address.
“As rural development, our key opportunity here is to invest in some of the solutions that local communities are looking at to build that energy resiliency, both in terms of a local supply in the short term, and in terms of a more resilient, cleaner supply in the future.”
But Arkansas Republican Rick Crawford pushed back on the administration’s policies.
“What does a farmer do today, when we’re seeing policy developed that is so focused on renewable energies? Are they going to put solar panels on top of their 300-horsepower tractor or how exactly does that work? Are they going to use electric tractors that are powered by wind turbines? We have large-scale ag operations across the country.”
After his comments, the Under Secretary acknowledged the transition to renewable energy won’t happen overnight.
“As we look to the future, there’s a key opportunity here to support biodiesel; to support opportunities to make that production or that use of energy more efficient and that’s the way world development can help incentivize those investments and to make them accessible to people across rural America.”
Last year, USDA allocated $40 million dollars in REAP Grant Funding. But she says there was another $30 million in requests, showing just how oversubscribed the program is.
“I’m grateful to continue this dialogue about how we can better support those farmers as they implement energy efficiency opportunities in the way rural folks know best: whether that’s updating a green dryer that hasn’t been updated since the 1980s to make it more efficient, or whether that’s investing in making biodiesel more energy efficient in their production.”
USDA also recently announced another $20 million dollar investment as part of a $465 million total investment in transitioning Rural Appalachian coal communities to renewable energy.