US Farm Bill passes in Senate, to face obstacles in House: BIO

17 June 2013 04:25  [Source: ICIS news]

MONTREAL, Canada (ICIS)--The US Senate reauthorised the Farm Bill with mandatory funding for energy programmes and eligibility for renewable chemicals, but the legislation will meet some resistance as it moves through the House, a trade group said on 16 June.

The Farm Bill is a federal agricultural and food policy, and the first year that it addressed the energy sector was in 2002. The last Farm Bill expired in 2012 but was extended to 2013 because lawmakers could not agree on a new policy.

“I think [the Senate’s approval] is a very encouraging sign of the bipartisan support that Farm Bill energy programmes enjoy,” said Matthew Carr, managing director of industrial and environmental issues at the Biotechnology Industry Organization (BIO).

“There is a recognition that these are the forward-leaning programmes that the Farm Bill should be encouraging to add value and create economic activity out of agricultural economies,” Carr said during an interview at the World Congress on Industrial Biotechnology conference.

BIO director of communications Paul Winters said the Senate included “very robust” mandatory funding for energy programmes, which will help US industrial biotechnology companies innovate and develop new products.

There is also language included in the Farm Bill that makes renewable chemicals eligible for all programmes.

“The central priority there is to get equity and equal treatment for renewable chemicals,” Winters said. “They achieve the same benefits as other renewable technology – technology that was developed in the US to create new industries and jobs here in the US. Essentially, they have the same needs to access capital to start up new businesses and the programmes in the Farm Bill that are designed to do that.”

The bill now goes to the House, where it was killed last year by representatives who wanted deeper programme cuts.

“On the House side, I think there’s more of a focus on cutting spending,” Carr said. “There’s still recognition of the amenity programmes, but there’s sort of a philosophy there that funding should come from the appropriations process. But our experience is if you leave it up to the appropriators, you don’t get much, if anything.”

BIO expects House representatives to introduce anti-biofuel amendments, propose no mandatory funding for energy programmes and try to cut spending other non-energy areas such as the food stamp programme.

The World Congress on Industrial Biotechnology conference runs through 19 June.

By: Tracy Dang
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