IX, the energy title of the 2008 farm bill (P.L. 110-240), contains the
bioenergy programs administered by the U.S. Department of Agriculture
(USDA). All of the major Title IX bioenergy programs expired at the end of
FY2012 and lacked baseline funding going forward. The American Taxpayer
Relief Act of 2012 (ATRA; P.L. 112-240) extends the 2008 farm bill through FY2013.
However, all major bioenergy provisions of Title IX—with the exception of the Feedstock
Flexibility Program for Bioenergy Producers—have no new mandatory funding in FY2013
under the ATRA farm bill extension. Although most of the bioenergy programs are reauthorized
for FY2013, their mandatory funding expired at the end of FY2012. If
policymakers want to continue these programs under either the 2008 farm
bill extension or in the next farm bill, they will need to pay for the
program with offsets.
USDA renewable energy programs have been used to incentivize research,
development, and adoption of renewable energy projects, including solar,
wind, and anaerobic digesters. However, the primary focus of USDA
renewable energy programs has been to promote U.S. biofuels production and
use—including corn starch-based ethanol, cellulosic ethanol, and soybean-based biodiesel.
An energy title first appeared in the 2002 farm bill, and was both extended and
expanded by the 2008 farm bill (Food, Conservation, and Energy Act of
2008, P.L. 110-246). The 2008 farm bill energy title (Title IX)
significantly expanded the number and types of programs available to support
renewable energy production and use. In addition, new renewable-energy
provisions were included in the rural development (Title VI), research
(Title VII), livestock (Title XI), and tax (Title XV) titles of the 2008
farm bill. The 2008 farm bill authorized slightly over $1 billion in mandatory
funding for energy programs for FY2008 through FY2012, compared with $800 million
in the 2002 farm bill (FY2002-FY2007). Discretionary funding in the 2008 farm
bill totaled $1.7 billion, up sharply from $245 million in the 2002 farm
bill. However, all discretionary program funding is subject to the annual
appropriations process, which may or may not appropriate funds due to
budget constraints. Actual discretionary appropriations to Title IX energy
programs have been substantially below authorized levels through FY2012.
Corn starch-based ethanol dominates the U.S. biofuels industry. However, in
response to growing concerns about the emerging spillover effects of
increasing corn use for ethanol production, the 2008 farm bill attempted
to refocus U.S. biofuels policy initiatives in favor of non-corn feedstocks;
the most critical program to this end is the Biomass Crop Assistance Program (BCAP),
which assists farmers in developing nontraditional crops for use as feedstocks
for the eventual production of cellulosic ethanol or other
The primary energy-related issue for the next farm bill is the expiration at
the end of FY2012 and lack of baseline funding going forward for all major
energy-related provisions of Title IX. In addition, the appearance of
substantial redundancy across renewable energy programs at USDA and DOE,
the slow development of the U.S. cellulosic biofuels sector, and continued
concerns about spillover effects of corn use for ethanol production are
issues that are likely to emerge during the next farm bill debate.
This report focuses both on those policies contained in the 2008 farm bill that
support agriculturebased renewable energy, especially biofuels, and on the
outlook for bioenergy programs in the next farm bill.
Date of Report: January 22, 2013
Number of Pages: 43 Order Number: R41985 Price: $29.95
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